3 Misconceptions About AI that You Need to Lose

In 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) holds more promise than ever. Alongside developing areas such as the Internet of Things and Big Data, it’s transforming business, the economy, science, and our individual lives. It’s a growing field, and one that’s full of potential for the business community: Forrester research suggests that, over the course of 2017 alone, investment in this area will increase by 300%.

But as it grows in importance, it simultaneously becomes easier and harder to understand. Misconceptions about AI have become pervasive, and many of them have become lodged in the popular consciousness. Many companies feel that they can’t take advantage of AI because they perceive that it is either inapplicable to their current business model or a threat to their traditional way of work.

Of course, it’s very applicable to many different business models, and it is not a threat but an asset—when used correctly. The best way for businesses to start exploring the possibilities of AI is to dispel these misconceptions. Here are just three of the most common.

1. AI is all about robots. A common perception of artificial intelligence is that it’s all about robots. But while robotics is certainly one part of it, it’s not the whole story. If you’re interested in AI, you should stop worrying about the ‘rise of the machines’ and start thinking about how it can benefit the way you work. We’ve already experienced the steady proliferation of automation in the workplace over the past few years in the form of task bots and sophisticated software applications, and it’s wise to expect even more developments in the future.

It’s important to emphasise, however, that while the two concepts are related, AI is in no way the same as automation, which focuses on eliminating routine, mundane tasks. Automation can be viewed as a prelude to AI, but it is not “true” AI. AI goes further: it focuses on leveraging and analyzing data to generate insights that aid superior decision making. Artificially intelligent machines grow in intelligence and adapt their actions as they receive more information.

Aside from robotics, there are many different forms of AI which overlap and intersect with each other, and all of which have exciting implications for businesses. Machine learning offers the possibility of computers that can learn without the intervention of human programmers. Data mining and analysis provide a means to collect and interpret data more rapidly and more effectively than ever before. Natural language processing can understand human speech as it is spoken. Image processing can analyze and interpret pictures and photographs.

Furthermore, robots won’t necessarily be as useful in traditional business environments as they would be industrial and consumer environments, but on the enterprise level they will likely have limited viability. Other forms of AI are nonetheless already available—and they’re already influencing our lives and businesses for the better.

2. AI isn’t for everyone. If you didn’t buy into the robot talk, you might have bought into another persistent myth of AI: that it’s not for everyone, or worse, that it’s just for data scientists, IT managers, and other technically minded professionals.

This is equally wrong. You are almost certainly using automation already and chances are, you’re already using AI—you just might not know it yet. While intelligent personal assistants such as Siri, Google Home, and Cortana are pretty hard to miss, many of the technologies we take for granted are already being enhanced, or will be enhanced in the future, by artificial intelligence. For example, most leading email providers are now using machine learning algorithms to improve the efficiency of spam filters.

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