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Artificial intelligence and machine learning: the new frontier

Such is my interest in artificial intelligence, and so important do I think the topic is, that I am seriously considering including an optional module on it in my innovation course at IE Business School.

To begin with, we need to get past the idea that artificial intelligence and machine learning only relate to automation: choosing menu items or doing what humans do, but faster. The idea seems simple, but what I find among most managers, is after many years seeing computers carry out repetitive tasks faster and more productively than humans, they do not understand that not only are many things that a machine can do much better we humans, but that machines have progress further and faster, because precisely one of the things that a computer can do better than a person is learn: it is more systematic when it comes to capturing data, is more likely to manage data and order it to find answers, is better in understanding the effect of restrictions, and may be even be better at thinking outside the box.

Examples such as machines’ ability to beat humans at Go or drive cars tell only half the story: when a manager understands that Google’s Alpha Go can come up with moves based solely on previous moves it has made itself, then we’re getting somewhere. When managers grasp that, much though they like driving, they haven’t a clue compared to a self-driving car and its decision-making processes, its ability to capture information, its reflexes and preciseness: only when we accept this will we begin to see the potential of artificial learning.

Sadly, manifestations of AI such as the dim-witted Siri don’t help matters: clearly, we are still a long way from developing machine learning’s potential in the real world.

Understanding the myriad acquisitions in the field of machine learning is in itself a challenge: the general public has no idea about these companies are or what they are doing. Trying to work out what is going on in this game of musical chairs is hard, but some interesting trends do emerge.

Looking at what has happened in the field since 2011, which is worth taking the time to do, there are a number of issues we should be concerned about in each of the industries involved. That said, there will be more acquisitions, and it should not worry us: there will be more, more expensive and more ambitious. This race has hardly begun.

In short, to put this question into perspective, I would say that artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to bring about a bigger change to the world than the internet has.

(En español, aquí)