AI – what artificial intelligence is and is not
All the facts about AI you need to know for business and digital experiences.
Written by Vegard Ottervig on
The past few years have provided an endless barrage of articles and blogs talking about the importance and proliferance of artificial intelligence, and how it’s going to “disrupt” your industry. But what are the facts about AI? Do your organisation need it?
“Intelligence” is usually defined as the faculty of reasoning and integration of knowledge—i.e. connecting the dots. So “artificial intelligence” must mean a human-made interface with the power to “reason“ and integrate knowledge.
However, it turns out that nobody can seem to agree what AI really entails, but we think an AI must demonstrate at least some of the following behaviors associated with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence, and creativity.
What this entails in real life is:
Machine learning (ML): A computer system’s ability to improve performance with exposure to information, but without the need to follow explicit programming instructions. In machine learning the system automatically discovers patterns and attempts to make estimates.
Robotics: A robot might be a familiar concept to anyone, but could you describe it? In robotics scientist integrate artificial perception and automatized planning with actuators, thus creating the helpful machines.
Self-driving cars: Automated cars also combine so-called “computer vision”, or artificial perception, with predictive behavior—this time in terms of steering, braking, and acceleration. But the fancy tech in cars don’t stop there: cars recognize e.g. the shape of raindrops on the windshield to activate the windshield wiper automatically.
Image recognition: This AI tech involves a computer system and the ability to recognize patterns, and then integrating similar patterns into the same group—just like we humans do, only we do it better. Examples include Google Photos and tolls that read your licence plate.
Natural language processing: We have all laughed at the literal interpretations of computer systems, but this tech attempts to utilize context to identify a text’s genre, sentence structures, grammar, people mentioned, etc.
Speech recognition: Services like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant wouldn’t work without speech recognition, which is a tech concerning itself with much of the same as natural language processing. Speech recognition additionally uses acoustics and predictive patterns for what sounds usually come after one another in a given language.
Personalization: Personalized experiences on websites and apps aren’t necessarily AI, but tailored recommendations can indeed be handled by an automated process. If you fit into a given demographic and have done certain actions, the AI behind the personalization system might just try to figure out itself what tailored content to show just to you.
As a side note: An AI should not only recognise, but should also do something with its gathered information. Sensors in your office can recognize shadows or movements, but that doesn’t make them smart. If the sensors had recognized you as a person freezing and turned up the heat, then we are talking.
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There is no rabbit in the hat when it comes to artificial intelligence. AI is not some magic that will solve anything for you and your digital experiences. You can’t hire a robot to do all your tasks super-fast, you still need humans and will always do.
AI is first and foremost technology that can automatize menial tasks, like finding a document faster for you. Also, contrary to what the doomsday preachers say, AI is not remotely close to human intelligence or concept-formation as we speak. AI can only do what is instructed within a given field
AI will not conquer the world. People might worry about losing their work to more effective robots and AI processes, but remember this: People worried about the same thing when the wheel was invented, when the first factories and gears arrived, when the assembly line arrived, and when computers first arrived. The results each time has been more wealth and more jobs. Don’t stay awake at night over AI.
How is artificial intelligence relevant to digital experiences and CMS? We have mentioned some of it already, but here goes:
Personalization: Yes, this again. Making digital experiences personalized is almost a self-evident given in driving higher conversions. If an AI could recognise you and what you like, and then proceed to deliver exactly what you would like to see, that would be AI personalization at its finest.
Advertising: AI has already made forays into the world of advertising with a concept you might be familiar with: programmatic advertising. Although not everyone is happy with the results from machines buying digital ads, the technology can evolve to provide even better results in the future.
Analytics: If you have ever ventured into a tool like Google Analytics you have probably at one point become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data and options. An analytics AI make part of the job easier for you, as it can be instructed to find every relevant data point that is business crucial, like the number of conversions or where the buyer’s funnel is clogged, and then suggest what to do next.
Optimization tools: You might spend a lot of time A/B testing to find out what headline or button color works best for your audience. Why not let an AI handle this for you automatically?
Due diligence and auditing: Why is this mentioned here? As every serious organisation is expected to play it fair, you need a stamp of approval by your auditors. The audit world is now experiencing the introduction of AI to their traditional services, and this might help both you and your auditor in streamlining processes and freeing up time to work on digital experiences.
Despite its name, marketing automation is not AI, yet. Marketing automation involves you setting up automated workflows that can be triggered by the actions of your users, but every step is made by you. An AI marketing automation would consist of a range of content matched to the right users, based on what the system has perceived and integrated—and then the automatic delivery of the right content to the right person at the right time.
Also, as a useful exercise, ask yourself: What current tasks would you like to be automated?
There is quite some time since artificial intelligence stopped being science fiction and started being science fact. But what systems are out there already? Here is a cursory look at the field:
Chatbot frameworks: A whole bunch of brands have taken a keen liking to chatbots—providing users fast and human-like answers in chat-form. As the AI gets smarter, you will probably have a harder time in recognizing if the one you’re chatting with is a human or a software, but right now this is a time-saving technology providing fast service.
TensorFlow: Developed by the Google Brain Team, TensorFlow is an open-source software library, used for machine learning applications such as neural networks.
IBM Watson: A question-answering computer system made famous in 2011 when it won Jeopardy! against seasoned champions. Today, it is used as an advisor to health personnel, among other things.
Amazon AI: Amazon dabbles in AI, of course, and you can see some of their documentation on Amazon Web Services.
AI—or what we believe is the more correct term, “machine learning”—is here to stay and has probably only begun its journey in transforming the world to a better place for all human beings.
First published 9 Janurary 2019, updated 12 August 2022.
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