For over two decades, GCD has strived to stay at the leading edge of software development, working with companies of all shapes and sizes from brand new startups to large multinationals, building innovative digital products and guiding organisations through complex digital transformation. Today, we delve into a topic that’s not only changing business, but also seamlessly integrating itself into our daily lives – Artificial Intelligence.
Note: We’re going to use the term AI broadly to encompass everything including Machine Learning and Deep Learning.
In the tech world we love to get incredibly excited about new innovations. From the birth of the Internet, Web 2.0, mobile, Robotic Process Automation, Low Code, blockchain, NFT’s the list goes on, every breakthrough arrives amid a buzz of anticipation. Yet, as surely as the buzz begins, it often fades away, making room for the next exciting innovation. Before eventually, over time finding its proper place in our world.
With AI, however, we may be witnessing a different pattern. The buzz around AI isn’t dimming—it’s amplifying. The rate of innovation in this space is at such a pace that everytime we think we’re at the peak there is a step change that resets the height of our expectations. While the technology will likely still follow the Hype cycle, we still have a long way to go, and the potential for AI to fundamentally impact the fabric of our society is immeasurable.
Over the past decade or so AI has become an integral part of our lives. It’s so pervasive that it’s very likely that most people have interacted with AI in some form.
Maybe it was through your smartphone, which uses AI for everything from processing photographs, voice recognition and predictive text. Or perhaps it was your smart speaker, obediently answering your questions or playing your favourite songs on demand. It could have been your smart thermostat, learning your habits to optimise your home’s temperature, or your car with its navigation system and autonomous driving support features.
AI has become embedded in the fabric of our daily lives. But this blog is going beyond the hype to understand the true impact of AI in business, and how we can navigate and thrive in this AI-infused world.
Now that we’ve established how pervasive AI is in our everyday lives, let’s take a step back and understand what AI really is. The term AI might still conjure images of sci-fi movies with sentient robots, but that’s not quite the reality… yet.
At its core, AI is about machines being able to carry out tasks with a human-like intelligence. I personally really like how Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google explains it.
She describes traditional programming as ‘Programming 1.0.’ Where we give the computer a set of explicit instructions, and it follows them verbatim, like a very obedient, very fast, but also very literal-minded intern. You tell it exactly what to do, and it does exactly that — nothing more, nothing less.
But when we talk about AI, we’re essentially talking about ‘Programming 2.0.’ Instead of giving the computer an explicit set of instructions to follow, we give it examples and ask it to figure out the patterns. We provide the data — the experiences, if you will — and the computer, using algorithms, learns from this data. It’s more like training a dog than programming a traditional computer. You don’t tell a dog explicitly how to fetch a stick; instead, you provide positive reinforcement when it does what you want.
The real magic happens when the AI begins to apply what it has learned from the training data to new, unseen data. In doing so, it demonstrates a form of intelligence that is truly transformative.
The holy grail of AI research is AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence which refers to a type of AI that has the ability to understand, learn, and apply its intelligence to any intellectual task that a human being can do. It’s not just about mimicking human behaviour — it’s about understanding and exhibiting a form of intelligence that’s comparable to human intelligence in its versatility and adaptability. The concept of AGI is both exciting and scary in equal measure, it’s also one of those goals that seems simultaneously in our grasp and yet always just out of reach, estimates range from years to decades and even centuries before we achieve true AGI.
AI in Today’s Business World
In the business world, AI has been rapidly evolving from automated customer service bots to predictive analysis for marketing strategies, increasingly business products involve some form of AI.
But if we look back at interest in AI something fundamentally changed over the past year. Advancements on Generative AI and in particular Large Language Models, or LLMs, like GPT from OpenAI and Palm from Google have enabled new classes of user facing apps like ChatGPT, Bard, MidJourney and DALL-E.
The flexibility and power of these tools have opened up the possibilities of what AI can achieve and put it directly in all our hands. User adoption has exceeded all expectations.
Before the advent of LLM’s, to leverage AI, a business needed a specialised team of data scientists to develop and train models for specific use-cases. This process is time-consuming, resource-intensive, and often out of reach for smaller teams. Since the release of the GPT and similar APIs software teams can move much quicker adopting AI within their applications. For instance on Propertynews.com we use GPT to read property descriptions and extract additional metadata about properties to enhance our search. Using GPT significantly reduced development time and increased the accuracy of our data.
How to Use AI Now
So how can businesses start leveraging AI? It’s highly likely that AI is already being used in your business. Some of your line of business apps may already have or will soon have AI assisted features. Microsoft and Google have both committed to a generative AI strategy for their respective Office suite. Microsoft is adding Co-pilot branded assistants powered by GPT throughout their apps and operating system.
Beyond that it is highly likely that individuals or teams have already started to use ChatGPT, Bard, Midjourney or other tools. It’s important for organisations to understand who is using what tools and for what reason. As a result of this there may be several things to consider around policy and privacy of information. Samsung for example recently banned AI use after employees accidentally leaked sensitive data via ChatGPT.
You need to decide what is right for your business, these generative tools can be a massive productivity boost for your organisation, but make sure you set your expectations appropriately.
With all the mixed press around AI and even some of the biggest players in this space calling for regulation it’s easy to shy away from the technology and simply ban it in your workplace. But with proper consideration and oversight they could have a huge positive impact on your business.
There are fears around job automation. The worry is that as AI becomes more capable, it might replace human jobs. While it’s true that some jobs may be automated, it’s also true that AI will create new jobs that we can’t even envision yet. Just as the internet era brought about job roles that didn’t exist before, the AI era will likely do the same.
For now you should think of AI as an assistant that is good at helping with certain tasks. If you treat it as a fact retrieval tool you will likely be disappointed. Or if you expect to use the output directly without review, you could do more damage than you expect. But if you treat it as fallible and imperfect it can be great for bouncing ideas off or for giving you inspiration.
As we chart a course into this brave new world, I’m reminded of a certain regional manager at a mid-range paper supply firm.
I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.’ When it comes to AI, I’d say it’s better to be a little ‘stitious,’ a little aware, a little prepared, because those who embrace AI today will be the trailblazers of tomorrow.
Hopefully this blog has been able to shed some light on how AI is more than just hype, how it’s transforming businesses, and how you can prepare for it. Remember, in the realm of business, AI is here to stay, it’s moving fast, evolving at a pace like never before and it will impact virtually every business in ways we are only beginning to imagine. If we don’t adapt and embrace it, we might just miss the extraordinary opportunities it offers.
If you’d like to discuss any of this further or have any questions, feel free to reach out to one of our team.