The Fourth Industrial Revolution
We’re at the beginning of what some analysts call The Fourth Industrial Revolution—sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0—the marriage of advanced manufacturing techniques with artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). The goal is to produce a hyper-efficient, automated, interconnected system capable of communicating, analyzing, and using information to drive progress.
There’s a lot of talk about the impact of Industry 4.0 on jobs and the future of work. It’s a newsworthy topic that has made its way into the daily media cycle, particularly as some investors predict more automation and fewer jobs in the future.
What is AI?
According to the Google dictionary, “Artificial intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
AI is not a discrete technology. It’s a constellation of technologies that mimic behaviors and cognitive abilities associated with humans, such as rationalizing, reasoning, problem-solving and learning. Being able to sense, comprehend, and automatically act upon what is learned—without being explicitly programmed to do so—is what makes AI more powerful than traditional computing technologies.
Some of the most popular AI technologies are:
- Speech Recognition — transforms human speech to text and other machine-readable formats
- Natural Language Processing and Text Analytics — makes it possible for computers to understand sentence structure, intent, meaning, and sentiment
- Machine Learning Systems — algorithms that learn and make predictions based on patterns in data
- Decision Management — automated decision-making engines
- Virtual Agents — chat bots and more advanced personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri
AI is with you already. There’s no escape.
Today, no matter where you look, AI is likely to be making a debut appearance. While previously limited to the fictional world of motion pictures, AI is making its way into almost every product, service, and technology imaginable. In fact, if you’re like many people, AI has been part of your life for a few years now:
- McDonald’s uses AI to convert drive-through orders from speech-to-text that can be pushed directly to the restaurant’s point-of-sale system.
- Banks use AI to detect unusual financial transactions and to generate credit card fraud alerts automatically.
- Website support teams use AI to power chat bots designed to engage customers and provide basic customer support services.
- Airlines, governments, shipping companies, insurance firms, and the media use AI to automatically deliver weather updates to those who need them.
- Emergency response agencies use AI to identify, classify, and filter social media messages related to emergencies, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises.
And, if you own a smartphone, chances are, you have a helpful personal assistant powered by AI at your beck and call. Perhaps the most widely-known personal assistant, Siri, is now available across much of the Apple product line. Siri’s power increases by connecting it to Apple HomeKit, allowing you to communicate with—and control—connected smarthome devices from afar with your voice.
The impact of AI
AI evangelists often tout the potential benefits AI may have on business, education, and humanity as a whole, but some experts worry that it may also introduce significant negative repercussions if allowed to develop unabated. Just imagine the arms race that might occur with the introduction of autonomous weapons.
- optimizing energy usage
- fighting poverty
- diagnosing, curing, and preventing diseases
- speeding new drug development
In 2016, Gartner ranked AI as its number one strategic technology (for the second year in a row). Google, IBM, Salesforce, Amazon, and Apple have invested significantly in the development, purchase, and acquisition of AI technologies. And, the AI race is on inside global brands. According to research from Narrative Science, 38% of enterprises today report using AI. By 2018, that number is expected to grow to 62%.
With Fortune 1000 companies embracing AI in a major way, it is no surprise that AI will continue to be a growing influence on the technology front impacting jobs, automation, and productivity—all with touchpoints to the political landscape.