As a Gen Xer, I remember when culture influenced technology. Today, it is the opposite—technology influences culture. Along with this shift has come a rapid acceleration in pace of life and pace of business. Any changes that happen in the external world affect our personal lives and businesses faster than ever, because everybody can tell everybody everything so fast.
Because of the speed of changes, things that used to take a year or six months now can happen overnight—And I’m not even talking about small changes, these are big changes! The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has accelerated these changes even more drastically. In just the last few months, for example, we have seen gigantic movie theater and rental car chains close. These are just two industries of many affected. Changes like this used to take 15 years. Now it is like literally every day.
So what does this mean for you as a service provider, a business owner? It is simple. You need to know that changes are going to accelerate. And people who cannot take advantage of them will get left behind.
I predict that in the future, every company will have to be technology company first. That’s because with good data practices and with AI, you can pivot and change course if you need to. Even if you don’t know what the future is bringing, being a technology-first makes you flexible.
But it is necessary to do this thing responsibly. Having an understanding of both the benefits and the negative impacts of artificial intelligence will give you the insight needed to steer your company into the wild unknown future.
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
The rate of technological change that is upon us is unprecedented in human history. In order to be able to handle the mountain of changes, we need AI. And for those who embrace it, there are many advantages of AI.
With AI and automation, your business will need fewer employees in order to function. Furthermore, AI won’t have to rely on the traditional eight hour workday. You can keep your business running 24/7.
With AI, there are no mishaps due to human error. Data is never gathered or input incorrectly because someone's finger accidentally hit the wrong key. A customer is never put off by the unfriendly demeanor of an exasperated checkout clerk in need of her lunch break. Since AI is computerized, it's the same all the time.
AI enables you to react faster in your business decisions. Frankly, it allows your business to move faster on all fronts.
AI will give you so much information about your customers that if what you’re producing in your business starts to lose steam, you’ll be able to quickly and effectively pivot into a new landscape. In general, having AI and automation in place means that when changes and curveballs come, you have enough buffer so you can withstand them.
AI takes money and patience to get going, but once it is set up, the system is self-sustaining and provides ongoing benefits. It will constantly be synthesizing and evaluating the data it is taking in, providing you with patterns and predictions that give you invaluable insight into what to do next for your business. When the market shifts, AI already has all the trend analyses.
Dangers of Artificial Intelligence
You need three factors to build an AI project or get the infrastructure in place to get AI up and running at your company: One, you need a powerful computer. Two, you need to have a data team in place. And three, you need a lot of data. The first and second things are expensive, though you can buy them and implement them quickly if you have the money. The third thing, the data, is the hardest because you cannot shortcut it—you need at least 10,000 data points to start using AI and expect any success. With all three factors, it comes down to AI being costly in terms of both money and effort.
AI is a reflection of the society in which it is created
AI is only as smart as the data it is fed and the way it is programmed. It is susceptible to the mental biases and “programming” of the humans who develop it. For example, a lot of people value themselves based on how much money they make and how many certificates they can hang on the wall. If you’re lazy enough, you can replace yourself completely with just those two things. Similarly, you can optimize AI for the wrong reasons.
Consolidation of power
I have a simple answer to the (pretty common, it seems?) fear in society of AI “taking over": I am not afraid of AI taking over, I am afraid of the wrong people using AI to take over.
AI is not going to take over the world. There is one company, one guy, that is going to take over the world. Jeff Bezos is his name. He has amassed the most data. It’s as simple as that. I believe the only way to stop certain people from achieving total domination in the future is with long-term planning, big changes, and government intervention.
Everything AI "knows," anything tells you, is only based on the data it has seen. Humans have all kinds of other ways of perceiving the world that AI does not. That's because, while humans can see the whole picture, AI can only see the data. This is a considerable limitation of AI that can result in problems like:
A perfectly qualified loan applicant being denied a loan at a bank because the AI has been given power to approve and disapprove applications, but the AI has a racial bias and the applicant’s skin color is dark.
A sick patient being prescribed the wrong medicine because, instead of a human doctor, they saw an AI robot that read the symptoms but didn’t have enough data to provide the correct, nuanced diagnosis
The perfect candidate for a job not even getting an interview because the candidate neglected to copy words verbatim from the job posting into their resume, and the AI program scanning through resumes—and programmed to select certain words—skipped them.
AI is fast. Anything technological and mathy, AI can do it faster than a human can. What AI cannot do is what comes out of our human features—our intuitiveness, our funkiness. Humans make a lot of mistakes, but those mistakes lead us to create discoveries.
Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Artificial Intelligence
The quality of our future, as business owners and also just as people living here on this planet, does depend significantly on how we think about AI going forward. Because AI can only perform two functions—classifying and predicting—and because it relies so heavily on data we feed it, humans need to understand and respect the limitations of AI.
The future of AI will be the combination of human intuition and AI's raw power. This will be the ultimate AI.