The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

Asking about the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning reminds me a little of the transition to suitcases with wheels.

Do you remember lugging around those old suitcases? If not, good for you -- this original advertisement from US Luggage will take you back! Thank Bernard Sadow for persistence with his idea to add wheels, because when he pitched his idea people thought he was crazy. Surely no one would want to pull their own suitcase? His patent application stated, “Whereas formerly, luggage would be handled by porters and be loaded or unloaded at points convenient to the street, the large terminals of today, particularly air terminals, have increased the difficulty of baggage-handling...Baggage-handling has become perhaps the biggest single difficulty encountered by an air passenger.”

We can wheel our own suitcases these days, but baggage handling is still a challenge for airlines. But one of the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning is the improvements companies like Amadeus are employing to baggage handling in airports to reduce the risk of lost bags. And in the Frankfurt Airport, Fraport uses predictive modeling from SAS to improve the overall customer experience moving through the airport.

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I hear plenty of verbal and online chatter predicting that artificial intelligence and machine learning will eliminate jobs. But a review of history shows that many such past predictions have not come true. Remember the introduction of ATMs? The expectation was that bank tellers would become an anachronism, but in fact demand for tellers has increased greater than average. Automation reduced the number of tellers needed per bank, but this savings allowed banks to open new branches, thus stimulating demand for tellers.

The same pattern repeated with the introduction of grocery store scanners and cashiers and electronic document discovery and paralegals. Today your friendly bellhop still greets you at the hotel as you roll your suitcase to the entrance because in fact the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts average growth in demand for baggage porters and bellhops. I believe that the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning include increased productivity that will lead to job creation. Plenty of enthusiastic electronic ink has been spilled about the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning for business, so I’m going to focus on another reason why I’m excited about this field -– the public benefit in areas like our health, economic development, the environment, child welfare, and public services.

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In a blog post on LinkedIn, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella envisions a future where computers and humans work together to address some of society’s biggest challenges. Instead of believing computers will displace humans, he argues that at Microsoft “we want to build intelligence that augments human abilities and experiences.” He understands the trepidation some have about jobs and even the supposed Singularity (the idea that machines will run amok and take over), writing “...we also have to build trust directly into our technology,” to address privacy, transparency, and security. He cites an example of the social benefits of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the form of a young Microsoft engineer who lost his sight at an early age but who works with his colleagues to build what is essentially a mini-computer working like glasses to give him information in an audible form he can consume.

Nadella's example of his young colleague is one of many where machine learning and artificial intelligence are making fantastic advances in providing great help for people with disabilities in the form of various health care wearables and prosthetics. Health care is replete with examples, as deep learning and other techniques show rapid gains on humans for diagnosis.

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