Written by Michael Sarnoski (Manager, Analytics)
Thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) often conjures up images of the Terminator or Hal from 2001 a Space Odyssey but, in reality, we are interacting with AI every day. In what has become known as the “AI Effect”, pieces of AI that have become common in our lives no longer are considered AI. Most of us take things like Facebook’s auto tagging feature or Alexa for granted but these are complex technologies that utilize machine learning (ML) to accomplish those specific tasks. General artificial intelligence (when a computer successfully performs any intellectual task that a human being is capable of) still has a long way to go but narrowly focused AI is here and is making an impact on business and society today.
The AI that is available to us and our clients can be thought of as being an army of interns at our disposal. It can’t be used to create complex marketing strategies and won’t replace our skilled copy writing team but it can automate repetitive tasks and free up time for us to focus on the high value work that our clients pay us for. Machine learning, which is a key component of AI, can also be used to better target/personalize campaigns for our clients thus reducing costs and increasing value.
As with any technology, AI and ML are only as good as the inputs. Even with the technological advancements in recent years the old saying of “garbage in — garbage out” still applies. Algorithms have become commodities. You can find hundreds, if not thousands, of algorithms freely available for anyone to use. Those algorithms are useless unless you have high quality data to feed them. Companies who are interested in this technology should focus on building a strong foundation of quality data before investing in AI or ML.
Amazon and Walmart owe a lot of their success to having large and well-structured relational databases to keep customer, product and logistic data but we don’t refer to them as “database companies” even though they use those databases as fuel for their core competencies. When you read Hacker News, Tech Crunch or ReCode you’ll see dozens of articles about “AI companies” but in the future there won’t be any “AI companies” instead AI will be a technology that is ingrained in all of the top performing organizations. In the future, the next Amazon or Walmart will use AI to fuel their competitive advantage.