What does AI mean for IT and Customers?
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, don’t turn on the TV nor read the news, you’ll notice that we are bombarded all time with ads and information about Artificial Intelligence (AI)—see those IBM Watson ads? How it’s going to change the world. Change our businesses. Change how we live. It is the focus of most of the IT and technology-based advertising out there along with cloud, SaaS, and data security. But will AI (and other areas associated with it, such as Cognitive Computing and Machine Learning) indeed change the world and how we do business? Let’s unpack that a bit this month.
There are a lot of things that fall under the umbrella of or relate, to AI. Let’s talk about a few of them:
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
First of all, what is it, what is AI? At its purest, AI is the intelligence demonstrated by a machine in contrast to the Natural Intelligence of a human. In Computer Science and IT (our field), it is a device that is programmed to perceive and understand its environment and learns how to take action to allow it to achieve its goals, or desired outcomes, whatever they are defined to be. Pretty straightforward by definition.
What is Cognitive Computing?
Cognitive Computing is a technology platform or device based upon the science of AI. In its more general sense, CC is hardware and/or software that looks to mimic the functioning of the human brain so it can improve upon human decision-making ability. These systems try to emulate human senses and reasoning and respond to stimuli within its environment. By that definition alone, it’s quite fascinating. You’ve no doubt seen the commercials on TV on the IBM Watson Platform. That’s the most widely known version of a Cognitive Computing solution, but it’s just one of many.
What is Machine Learning?
Machine Learning is another essential part of the AI puzzle as well. It’s not a new concept or term. It was first coined back in 1959 and is the ability for a computer system to “learn.” What does it mean to learn? Just like humans, it looks to progressively improve performance but, in this case, it’s in regards to a specific task. But here’s what’s intriguing: it learns and progressively improves performance without explicitly being programmed to do so. It’s “learns” to do so; learns from its data and environment. I’ll say it again: facilitating. It’s not new. People have been programming and (trying) to develop and create systems that can do this since the 1960’s.
What is the commonality among all of these? They can do things much quicker than humans in analyzing and sifting through large volumes of data. Not necessary in capability, as the human brain is still promoted the most powerful “computer” or data processor known. They don’t think and create their own data…yet, they base their ability upon data given to absorb and analyze. They can take in lots of data and make decisions based upon analyzing that data to achieve a specific purpose. A goal or purpose that is still defined by the humans who create the systems. Systems have the ability to analyze data (and big volumes of it) in ways that humans cannot.
What does it all mean?
That said, what does it all mean for us in the IT world, which of course, is what we're all about? The implications are staggering. As we all know, and I’ve said many times, all of this technology (AI, CC, and ML, and everything else) is just tools to help you run your business better. If not, then why invest in it?
AI/CC/ML can be used in healthcare for mapping out genes and identifying illnesses. Pharma companies can predict how a drug can work and treat disease. Colleges and Universities can use to select the best potential students. Insurance firms can use to predict risk. Logistics companies and airlines can use to predict the best and most efficient routes. Advertisers and marketers can use to find and market to specific audiences. Farmers can use to best plant and harvest crops. What about a VAR’s and MSP providers like us using it to helps support customers in the best and most efficient manner possible? The list goes on, and the potential applications and uses are varied and endless.
Tech firms are creating and enabling the use of tools to allow for AI (AWS, Microsoft, IBM, and countless others) in their solutions. Soon AI and Cognitive will no longer be only for large enterprises, but solutions will be available for SMB’s. It's already starting to head in that direction, and that’s when it will truly become mainstream when firms create solutions incorporating AI/CC/ML into their products that everyone can afford. It’s already starting and lends itself to inspiring times.
There have been many movies that have illustrated how a possible world can look with AI. Movies such are AI, Terminator, and The Matrix shows us one perspective and, in many cases, show that perspective in a negative light. With the advancement of technology and computing, would the writers of those movies from so many years ago, have written them the same way, if they were writing them today? Pondering that one is interesting.
AI will be part of just about all solutions that firms use within IT as time goes on. It will be the new standard and people will look back on the hype and articles like one will seem old and dated. I look forward to those times. In the meantime, let's see where it all goes. These are exciting times—just ask someone who started in IT a long time ago (it’s been 24 years myself) and ask them about how things have changed. That’s the natural course of things, as it should be.
I am thrilled to see where this is all going. I know where I believe it will go and where I'd like it to, but let's see. I look forward to being part of the AI ride.