Artificial Intelligence reaches beyond Silicon Valley to energy, finance, health care and retail sectors with consequences for the workplace and consumers
Just as in the 1990s businesspeople the world over tried to work out what the rise of the internet would do to their companies, they are now trying to determine what artificial intelligence (AI) will mean for them. AI has already changed the technology sector, helping to consolidate the reign of firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon, which embraced AI early so as to supercharge their advertising and retail businesses. Now AI is set to spread beyond the Silicon Valley giants to many other industries, including agriculture, energy, finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and more.
The author of “GrAIt expectations”, a special report published in today’s edition of The Economist, is Alexandra Suich Bass, the newspaper’s US technology editor. She notes AI will change workplace monitoring and surveillance, enhance how human resources hire and manage talent and will generate more employee data. AI will also impact how supply chains operate and will create new customer service interfaces.
How should these firms go about determining their AI strategy, and what will it mean for the future of their business? This special report argues that by enabling them to become more efficient and make far more accurate forecasts, AI will dramatically and fundamentally change the way they work. The report analyses the effect of different kinds of artificial intelligence (such as computer vision and speech recognition), as well as applications such as human resources, where it will change the way companies recruit, hire and retain staff. Big firms like Johnson & Johnson, which makes medical devices, and Unilever, a consumer- products company, are already experimenting with it. AI will also make a big difference to business functions such as customer service, sales and supply-chain management.
In addition, the report looks at the ecosystems that provide AI to companies, including consulting and cloud services, and ask which firms will benefit from this technology. And it considers the future of the workplace at a time when companies are able to collect more data than ever to serve as a basis for decision-making.
There are three questions for businesses and governments to answer as AI storms ahead.
- What is the effect on jobs? Will AI primarily pare staff as it cuts costs and automates tasks?
- How will privacy be protected if AI has the ability to track digital behavior in minute detail, including through facial recognition? What degree of monitoring is reasonable?
- Will AI contribute to the rise of monopolies if a few companies outpace others at developing and acquiring new technology thereby stifling innovation and consumer choice?
To read the full Special Report, please visit The Economist special reports section.