What it means for business, government, and the individual

For the very few of you who may be questioning whether Artificial Intelligence is here for real, it might be worth having a chat with Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. They’re always game for a conversation. Or at least, a command.

The fact is, the field of AI has been around for decades. Today, with the continued growth of big data and the ability to quickly develop neural networks, AI is becoming more and more prevalent. And with the wider availability of toolkits, frameworks and open source data sets for software engineers, the pace of AI development keeps on accelerating.

Google, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, and many other technology leaders are all scrambling to hire the best AI talent, acquire AI start-ups, invest more heavily in AI research, and market their own flavors of AI-enhanced products and services. Two years ago, in 2015, Silicon Valley spent 8.5 billion dollars on AI, according to The Economist.

The depth and breadth of AI technology in current, new, and emerging products and services is staggering. Machine learning – the ability for machines to sense, reason, and act – is used for image recognition of photographs, spam filtering of email programs, and fraud detection of credit cards. Video games like Far Cry and Call of Duty employ AI to enable their characters to evaluate and analyze their environment, thereby affecting the play of the game. And there are further advancements happening in the field of science, education, policing, and finance.

Government, too. The city of Columbus, OH is a great example. It won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $50 million Smart City Challenge in 2016, and will be implementing autonomous vehicles to provide transportation between a high unemployment neighborhood and one of the city’s jobs centers. Boston, MA used image recognition software to examine hundreds of thousands of photographs to investigate the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. And Las Vegas now examines tens of thousands of tweets to determine which restaurants are likely to have health violations, rather than selecting them at random as they did before. The result – a six percent increase in citations.

The real potential of AI? The ability to be better informed (just ask Watson). The ability to be healthier (Deep Genomics, a Canadian company, uses machine learning to develop pharmaceuticals). The ability to be safer (Tesla’s advanced predictive features, for example, and – arguably – self-driving cars.)

And that’s just the start. The potential for AI is practically limitless. PwC says the AI market will reach $70 billion by 2020. Accenture says AI could double growth rates in twelve developed countries by 2035. No wonder most people actually see AI as a positive force in their lives – something they’re embracing, not shying away from. There’s more – much more – to come.