I’m sure you have read sentences like this one: “As we have begun teaching machines how to understand humans, AI is learning and evolving.” A few years ago, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) still existed solely in the realms of science fiction. Machines that understand humans? Intelligent, evolving computers? All that sounded like a far off future – exciting for some, but also frightening for others.
However, if we are to believe the current marketing hype, the future is apparently now. Even going away from the human-machine interaction, the Internet of Things is a reality. We read about Smart Homes and household objects “talking” to each other every day.
Jonny is Lana Labs’ resident marketer, but if there’s one thing that really annoys him about tech marketing, it’s the overuse and often misuse of buzzwords. In this op-ed, he takes a deeper look at some of the hyped-up technology trends and tries to set the record straight.
Are we living in a SciFi world then?
Well, no. You see, as amazing as these things sound, a lot of it is wishful thinking, or rather oversimplification. It doesn’t help that the technology shares a name with Spielberg’s famous movie about robots who are, for all intents and purposes, thinking and feeling humans. And most of those misconceptions about our current-day AI technology comes from overeager marketers.
I should know. I’m one of them.
The more abstract the tech you’re supposed to advertise, the more we gravitate towards symbolism, metaphors, allegories. However, while this makes it much easier for laypeople to understand difficult concepts, it is also prone to misinterpretation.
So Artificial Intelligence is just a myth?
Also no. The technology is real, but it seems to be somewhat misunderstood, sometimes even purposefully miscommunicated. Cyborgs aren’t a thing yet, sorry. (Although that’s exactly what a cyborg in disguise would say…)
Any company advertising actual intelligent systems or products is either lying, or they don’t understand their own tech. At least if we go by the common understanding of “intelligence”: the capability of thought and reason, maybe even creative learning.
If that’s true, how can Siri or Alexa answer any of my questions then? – I hear you say. A valid point. The answer is rather boring: They don’t actually think about your questions, not in the way a human would. Anything and everything these systems do has been programmed by their developers.
What Artificial Intelligence allows us to do is not having to program every conceivable question-answer pair into the machine. Instead, we feed it rules and commands to connect any type of question with an appropriate response. An algorithm reads your input and translates it to information that the system understands. Certain triggers – again, defined by the developer – then call for a specific output. These triggers can take on a wide variety of forms, by the way, including text and images and even the spoken word – A.I. performs a remarkable feat of translation here.
Input: “Siri, what is the weather (trigger 1) in Berlin (trigger 2) today (trigger 3)?”
Output: Look for [characteristic 1] in [location 2] for [time 3].
Any response is predefined. What the system does not do is any kind of creative work. It’s true, some systems are able to learn patterns and new behaviors, but even that happens solely along the framework set by the creators.
I’m confused: Why all the hype about Artificial Intelligence?
While we might not yet be able to simulate the intelligent computer system HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (and we’re probably better off for it), AI as a technology is still very powerful.
At its core, Artificial Intelligence enables systems to execute commands that would otherwise be impossible to pre-program by a human, due to the sheer amount of code that would be needed to cover every kind of context. The pattern recognition is also an incredibly valuable tool, as it allows precise connections between multiple complex inputs and the ideal output. Imagine AI not as the thinking and feeling puppet Pinocchio, but as a normal wooden puppet – with an infinite amount of arms.
Yes, it’s not as sexy as some people make it out to be. But it is certainly useful.
How does this look in practice?
Funny you should ask! Our very own software LANA Process Mining happens to be powered by a smart algorithm. With this, LANA is able to identify the root causes of any unwanted deviations in your business processes.