It says Issue #101, but this actually is the 100th issue. So, hooray! And thanks for reading!
A couple of articles caught my attention on Thursday that suggest, to me, if very indirectly, that we might be getting ahead of ourselves talking about the short-term effects of artificial intelligence. It’s not because AI isn’t powerful or because there aren’t perfectly aligned applications for it right now—there absolutely are—but, rather, because many companies still have not mastered using data as a tool for competitive advantage and product feature.
Before I go further, here are the two items I’m talking about:
The NYT article points out how some car companies are going to extreme, ranging from chip fabrication to quantum computing, in order to gain an edge in building smarter cars. The HBR article points out how we’ve evolved from Hadoop and R hosted locally to APIs, edge computing and machine learning.
“Analytics in the past were created for human decision makers, who considered the output and made the final decision,” the HBR article states. “But machine learning technologies can take the next step and actually make the decision or adopt the recommended action.” Based on most of what I’ve read and heard in the past several months, it actually doesn’t appear that most enterprises are anywhere near this level of machine learning adoption, much less automation. Maybe in the warehouse, but certainly not in the boardroom.
While cars are mechanically smarter, the driving experience—the way people interact with their cars—is, save for perhaps Teslas and some other high-end vehicles, more or less as dumb as it’s ever been. Forget autonomous driving: simple things like WiFi, real-time traffic info and working voice controls are still out of reach in many vehicles.
Companies like Google and Facebook are leading the way in AI in part because they long ago mastered big data in terms of infrastructure, collection, analytics and as the foundation of new features. It’s institutional knowledge as much as it’s technical knowledge.
Companies and institutions of all types absolutely should be looking at where and how they can apply technologies like AI (and, I guess, quantum computing) today. We see successful applications all the time, but often for specific tasks that are relatively easy wins (I’m thinking things like document review in law, or optimizing factory robots). I’m just not certain we can reach peak automation and intelligence in our economy without many companies actually making the climb.