It seems that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. From self-driving cars, to authoring science papers, to an AI CEO, Artificial Intelligence is involved in everything. In fact, some have warned it could even end our civilization. But, away from the headlines, AI is already impacting the way we work. Whilst it’s yet to do important jobs like a Starbucks run or the filing, it’s showing up in a lot of day-today tasks.
Perhaps you’ve already started dabbling in the wonderful world of AI by letting ChatGPT loose on your job listings, Fireflies jot down meeting minutes and DreamStudio jazz up your profile picture. But what precisely is AI? Should we be worried? Can it help us achieve our business goals or are we about to enslave ourselves to The Matrix?
'Whilst it’s yet to do important jobs like a Starbucks run or the filing, it’s showing up in a lot of day-today tasks and is already impacting the way we work.'
From Blade Runner to The Terminator, for most of us the concept of artificial intelligence has always felt a little Hollywood. A fantastical idea to underpin a great story, but nothing real. Yet here we are. AI is here and it’s here to stay. So, what is it really and how can we make it work for us?
At its core, AI is the ability for a computer to think like a human, or at least to appear to. This currently presents itself as computer programmes which are able to reason and learn from experience.
The recent explosion in awareness of AI has come from a new type of system based around a technology called Generative AI. This sounds fancy, but in practice it means a system that can create text, images, music or other media based on patterns it finds in examples which it is given called training data.
We can see this at work with today’s most popular AI system, ChatGPT. This is software which can create human-like text based on a user’s request. ChatGPT creates articles using information taken from a huge collection of text including books, articles, and web pages To this they add more information from news articles and Wikipedia.
All of this data is used to train software which is designed to mimic human thought. When the software has processed all of the data, ChatGPT can predict what text should come next in a sentence based on analysis of text it has seen before. It can also refine output to express specific feelings and make the text context appropriate. This leads to very natural, human-like text being produced by ChatGPT and systems like it.
Users can write a request on ChatGPT and ask it to produce original text on most topics. They can even request a specific tone or feel. So, if you’d like your marketing to sound like it was written by Shakespeare, ChatGPT can make that happen.
This same process is used by all other AI software, whether they’re creating text, images, video or any other types of media.
The limitations and risks of AI.
Whilst what they can do is amazing, current AI systems are far from human capabilities and bring risks of their own. Some headlines would make you think that the risks are a future in which Skynet takes over the world, but in reality, the concerns are a little more mundane, though no less important.
One concern is the sources of information used by these generative AI systems, as this data defines the capabilities of the AI. That is to say, if your AI isn’t trained with quality, reliable data, then this can lead to issues. There are concerns that, as more information and content is created by AI, this could lead to a downward trend for the quality and an increase in bias of the media these systems produce.
This reliance on data sources means that the system only knows what it is told. It is important to understand what information an AI system has access to before using it.
As discussed, Generative AI stores large amounts of information. Current systems use publicly available data, but, as the use of AI grows more sensitive or private information could be included within their training data. AI is as vulnerable as any other IT system to being hacked, so this will create concerns around privacy and security going forward.
Finally, there are also ghosts in the machine, a bit like Short Circuit, if you’re a fan of 80’s movies. Whilst we understand how the software within an AI is made, we don’t know how they actually process and reproduce information. This makes it hard to predict what an AI will do. We’re already seeing this with AI chatbots who have been found to be making up information, as has ChatGPT.
How can your business use AI today?
For all of the concerns, AI still has great potential and is something to think about for your business. In a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 80% of business leaders are already use generative AI regularly and are finding that it improves efficiency and performance.
But what can AI actually do for your company? Here are some of our favourite uses for AI available for your business today:
- Customer Service – implementing an AI Chatbot, such as FreshChat on your website can help with fielding the first level of customer queries. By responding to frequently asked questions and simple requests, an AI can cut down on staff workload and reduce response times for customers.
- Finance – Generative AI is great at spotting patterns and making predictions. This means it is perfect for fraud detection and financial forecasting for your business. A great AI forecasting tool is Datarails.
- Transportation – AI driven apps like Waze are great for route planning and traffic prediction, ensuring you make your meetings on time.
- Marketing – as marketing moves to deeper levels of automation, AI can help with customer segmentation, social media, and more accurate targeting for your marketing. When it comes to marketing AI, we’re fans of Sprout Social.
There still remains a lot of concern that AI will result in job losses for those in non-leadership roles. That’s why it’s crucial to keep in mind one important fact; AI is a tool. Integrating it into your business should be approached from a “people first” perspective, ensuring that it complements your team, not replaces them.
AI opens up new opportunities and roles within your business. Consider offering training on AI best practice and qualifications for the new tools to your team to empower them to use AI with confidence.
It’s also worth considering adding AI policies to your business. This will enable you to define acceptable use for AI as well as data protection and privacy expectations. If everyone understands what AI is and is not for, problems can be avoided before they occur.
The future is together.
AI is no longer science fiction, it’s science fact. By understanding what AI can (and can’t) do, you can make informed choices about when, where and how to add it to your business.
Whilst there’s no doubt that this technology will develop and grow in the weeks, months and years ahead, early adoption will help you make the most of this exciting technology. Successfully adding it to your business will increase efficiency and give you a competitive advantage, but only if done with care.