With AI, the enterprise mind gets a brand new bicycle

[NOTE: Originally published on LinkedIn] In 1990, Steve Jobs made a now famous analogy, suggesting he sees the computer as a “bicycle for the mind.” He noted a study he read that demonstrated that humans are not optimized for locomotion, expending more energy than a condor to travel the same distance. When a journalist then compared a human on a bicycle to all the other animals listed in the study, however, the results were different.

“A human riding a bicycle blew away the condor all the way off the top of the list. And it made a really big impression on me that we humans are tool builders,” Jobs said. “And that we can fashion tools that amplify these inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes. And so for me, a computer has always been a bicycle of the mind.”

The rest is history. Jobs and his cohorts effectively invented the modern world we live in, and the tools they introduced have changed the way we do virtually everything, ushering in an era in which everyone has a mind bike in their pocket to engage every aspect of life and work.

As was the case with the computer a generation (or two) ago, artificial intelligence (A.I.) is now poised to transform the way we approach the world in ways that we can’t yet imagine. There are many applications of A.I. as a tool, as well as many interpretations of how it will be implemented and the changes that it will bring about.

But still, like the computer, A.I. is a beautiful tool that requires the human hand to guide it to build great things. It is not some silver bullet that will render us obsolete and unemployable, ushering in the era of Skynet. A.I. will simply augment the human brain like the computer before it, helping us make better decisions, and build better infrastructure, just like every other technology we’ve ever invented, from the hammer to the written word.

Take perhaps the most prominent deployment of A.I. in the current imagination: the self-driving car. There are many scenarios where automated driving is still going to require human intervention to achieve optimal results. In a snowstorm, for instance, the cameras may be blurred, the sensors obscured. Over the next few years, we will capture loads of driving data which will make the automation smarter with each added data point. The user data is the most important element of the automation, enabling the trend line to improve based on the data. The driverless car will likely one day be safe enough for winter in Chicago with minimal human intervention, but it will not get there without massive amounts of data to drive the results (apologies for that pun).

A.I. can do the same thing for your enterprise applications, building trend lines to tell you where to direct your business to maximize profits, drive innovations in workflow productivity, and predict market events to help avoid potential pitfalls, to name a few things that we can speak to early on in this generation of the technology. But the essential thing is constantly delivering the user data needed to produce accurate results.

At Cloudtenna, we’re developing A.I. that augments your ability to search through massive amounts of data, augment its relevance to users, identify pattern history, and personalize results for each individual user. The machine learns, but it learns from us. The more data our A.I. has at its disposal, the better decisions it make — making the tool that much more useful for what we can use it to build.

Building a trend line isn’t complicated. What’s complicated is collecting the data. The suite of products that we deliver provide the skeleton to create the trend line. The value in what we’re doing is collecting the data on real human patterns. By securely and seamlessly collecting metadata across an organization’s data silos, both inside the firewall and in the cloud, we have enabled ultra-secure file sharing, as well as intelligent enterprise search that is leaps and bounds past where we’ve been in the last ten years with only simple keywords. This progress is enabling us to build auditing and governance tools that use A.I. to better secure a company’s data and understand who is using it and how, and better know how the data is utilized, thus improving the trend line further, and delivering more intelligent results.

With AI, we are building a new bicycle for the mind. We don’t yet know where the ride will take us, but every day we are understanding how to get there with greater efficiency. And that will allow us to amplify our inherent abilities to even more spectacular magnitudes.