Gaurav Tewari, founder and Managing Partner of Omega Venture Partners.
While the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has made steady progress over the past few decades, only recently did progress rapidly accelerate, allowing scientific achievements to be translated into real-world use cases. In the last few years, AI has been developing at a consistently rapid pace and has achieved an inflection point. We’re currently in the midst of an AI revolution, utilizing AI’s capabilities like never before.
But before we can examine just how AI is revolutionizing our way of life, we must first look at how it got to where it is today. AI had already entered the minds of prominent scientists by the 1950s, as evidenced by Alan Turing’s 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Between 1957 and 1974, computing capacity advanced to the point where people were able to improve machine learning algorithms and put AI to use.
Still, it took years, and recent innovations such as deep learning, for AI to achieve escape velocity. As the memory and computational horsepower of computers has improved, the capacity for AI has grown exponentially. Today, in the digital information age, AI has become an instrumental tool in such diverse fields as banking, medicine and marketing. It has ushered in unprecedented levels of commercial success for the companies willing to wield it, and, as I wrote in a recent article, its ability to solve complex problems continues to grow each day.
AI: A General Purpose Technology
A general purpose technology has the potential to permeate across the entire economy. AI is a general purpose technology in the same way that the steam engine, electricity and fire were—wide-ranging in both scope and impact. As a 2019 60 Minutes interview put it: “Computers used to be given rigid instructions. Now they’re programmed to learn on their own.” AI and machine learning (ML) change the paradigm of how computers learn what they are supposed to do, how they reason when faced with new scenarios not explicitly captured in their programming and how they interact with humans.
Leading experts in technology see AI’s potential clearly. According to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, artificial intelligence “is one of the most profound technologies we are working on, as important or more than fire and electricity.” AI’s uses span all the way from the technology used in a Roomba to scan and clean a room, to Siri and Alexa, digital assistants most everyone is familiar with. These uses are not confined to one specific industry—in fact, it’s hard to name a market, economic segment or business not capable of benefitting from AI applications.
Today, AI is helping companies develop new business models to sell their products and services to customers. AI algorithms can help figure out which trends will attract the most customers. AI can even be used to test and design content ideas while checking performance parameters in real time. The predictive power of artificial intelligence can also be used to find new product categories and market segments. Finally, AI can help new businesses assess competitors and their revenue streams to find the best business model for them.
Catalyzing The Most Exciting Innovation In History
What we’re seeing from AI has no precedent. PwC predicts that the accelerating development of AI may deliver an increase in economic output of $15.7 trillion by 2030, increasing global GDP by up to 14%.
With AI’s potential to reshape almost every industry, the innovation at our fingertips is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Over the past 40 years, prior technology waves (e.g., personal computing, the internet, the cloud, mobile tech) have generated hundreds of billions of dollars of new market potential and created new market leaders. These prior shifts laid the foundations for AI to become the next big thing, as AI builds on these advancements.
Shifting The Competitive Order Across Many Industries
Business leaders no longer have the luxury to wait when it comes to adopting AI in their companies. AI is all but certain to reshuffle the competitive order across every market. But just because AI is a clear winner doesn’t mean that mistakes can’t be made in adopting it. If you’re considering bringing AI onboard, the first thing you’ll need to do is take the time to understand it. Read up on machine learning, predictive analytics and IoT to see whether or not those technologies can benefit your business.
You’ll also want to identify which specific problems your business has that AI can solve. Where can you improve? Where have companies like yours successfully brought AI onboard? Once you’ve identified what your goals are, you can determine how to best use AI to achieve those goals. For example, if you’re an online retailer looking to boost sales, you might consider adding a virtual assistant or chatbot to your site or making personalized product suggestions.
Lastly, you’ll need to bring experts on board if you want to successfully integrate AI into your company. Most businesses don’t have the existing talent or infrastructure to directly adopt AI. You’ll probably need to hire someone to train your employees on how to use the technology, as well as to implement the technology itself.
With widespread adoption, growing commercial success and the ability to solve more complex problems than ever before, AI has reached the point of no return. It remains to be seen what innovations are in store for us, but one thing is for sure: With AI, the future seems limitless.