What Do Executives Need to Understand About AI?

Thirty years ago, when many of today’s executives were first starting their careers, artificial intelligence was an intriguing topic for science fiction writers. Today, AI is everywhere — in the digital devices consumers use every day, in the programs businesses rely on, in schools, in healthcare facilities, in cars and more. It is becoming ever clearer that AI will be an essential technology for the future, so what does the average executive need to know about it?

What Is AI?

For many executives, the term “artificial intelligence” immediately brings to mind anthropomorphic robots and killer code. However, AI is a much more nuanced field of technology than what one can read about in science fiction, and considering that many executives already have access to AI tools, it is imperative that they develop a more accurate picture of this important tech.

At its core, AI is a field of technology that combines data science and computer science to provide enhanced problem-solving. Though many AI researchers dream of developing AIs with human-level intelligence (or above), the only AIs that currently exist are considered Artificial Narrow Intelligences (ANIs) or weak AIs. These tools are created to complete a specific task, and they cannot operate outside that task. Beneath the ANI umbrella are two subcategories of artificial intelligence: reactive machines and limited memory machines.

Reactive machines are the oldest and most basic form of AI. Executives might remember Deep Blue, the IBM computer developed to beat the world’s greatest chess players. This AI and other reactive machines like it can only react to human input and are unable to learn from their previous actions. Plenty of businesses utilize reactive machines in the tools for automating processes.

In contrast, limited memory machines maintain a memory that allows them to learn from historical data. AI experts train limited memory AIs with data to respond to certain inputs with certain types of behavior. Because these AIs will remember old data and use it to inform their current and future insights, the data they take in is incredibly important. Over time, with the wrong maintenance, limited memory machines can malfunction, so executives need to have AI-savvy teams on hand to keep AI tools on track.

It should go without saying that artificial intelligence courses available online from top universities can provide more detail on the current state of the AI field. Executives should regularly renew their knowledge about AI by engaging in education, especially if they expect their organizations to benefit from cutting-edge tech tools.

How Can Businesses Use AI?

Executives need to know what artificial intelligence is in the real world, but perhaps more importantly, they need to know what AI can offer their organizations. Though the field of AI is in its infancy, there are already myriad applications for AI in business, to include:

Automating processes to improve performance and lower costs. Plenty of processes can be performed by a machine, saving the employee time and energy for more creative, more delicate or otherwise more human tasks. Some examples of automated processes include: helpdesk support, network backups, sales orders, payroll and attendance tracking.

Enhancing customer experience through personalization. Targeted advertisements, product recommendations and content suggestions help personalize the customer experience, allowing customers to enjoy products and content that apply to their unique circumstances.

Utilizing large amounts of data faster and more accurately. The trend toward Big Data has left many companies bogged down in information that they are unable to utilize. AI tools are much more adept at sifting through data to find useful insights to guide business decision-making.

Improving customer service at every step. AI tools can help executives track and respond to consumer trends driving behavior in their industry. AI can also assist customers as they navigate the sales funnel and beyond, aiding in troubleshooting as services like chatbots.

Though artificial intelligence might seem like a brand-new technology, the biggest businesses have been using AI tools for some time. The sooner executives understand and integrate AI into their business strategies, the better they will be able to compete in their industry into the future.

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