Managers Need To Know: Just Exactly What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Everyone is talking about AI, but what is it really?
Everyone is talking about AI, but what is it really?
Image Credit: PROO’Reilly Conferences

Welcome to the 21st Century. For some reason everyone seems to be talking about artificial intelligence as of late. What’s the big deal? This stuff used to only exist in science fiction movies and now it sure seems like it is in the process of taking over the world. Managers are going to be affected by the arrival of artificial intelligence and so it sure looks like we are going to have to make sure that we have the manager skills to fully understand what is going on here.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Did you have the manager training to know that artificial intelligence already plays a big role in your life? During an average day artificial intelligence is used to complete the words that you write as a part of a text message, provides you with answers when you ask your smartphone how many ounces there are in a pound. Artificial Intelligence is used to calculate the quickest route from where you are to where you want to go, has the ability to recognize faces, fill your playlist with songs that it knows that you’ll like, and presents you with ads for things that you just might actually buy.

As big of a role that artificial intelligence already plays in our lives today, it turns out that its just going to keep getting bigger and bigger along with the importance of information technology. Our future is going to be filled with self-driving cars that will be able to park themselves. In our homes, our lights and our thermostats will be talking with our phones so that everything knows to turn itself off when we are not around. In factories, robots sort the goods that we’ve ordered into packages for us and in the future drones may be dropping them off on our front porch. Artificial intelligence is not something that is coming, rather its something that is already here. It’s not going to go away and it’s just going to become a bigger part of each of our lives.

So just exactly what is artificial intelligence (AI)? Let’s be clear about some things: AI is not a fancy way of replacing the human brain. Rather, AI is when we get a computer to do something that used to be considered a job that only a human could do. Back in the day, AI was a fancy program that was used to defeat chess champions. Now we have AI built into every smartphone out there. AI is built using lots and lots of data coupled with large amounts of computing horsepower. Smart people create things called neural networks that are fed using machine learning. The internet is used to gather reams of data and the computing farms set up by Google and Amazon are used to crunch that data and deliver the answers that we are looking for.

What Does This Mean For Managers?

This AI stuff has been around for a while, why is everyone talking about it all of a sudden? For the longest time, AI made promises that it just could not keep. However, just a few years ago things changed and all of a sudden AI started to deliver. The arrival of neural networks showed that human perception could be mimicked. What we are seeing is that computers can now be taught to see, hear, and sense the world in which they live. As they do this, they can also start to reason based on what they are learning.

What can managers use AI to accomplish? We need to understand that AI can be used to mimic our human senses. What this means is that AI is good at recognizing words that it hears and sorting through photos by colors and items identified in user tags to find the right ones. AI can also be used to find the most efficient path. This is very valuable when you are trying to get across town during rush hour but it is also useful for firms that are optimizing network layouts. The experts believe that AI has a huge future in the world of medical treatments from using machine learning to match medical treatments with patient records to managing medical supplies.

Nothing is perfect and just like everything else, AI comes with its own set of limitations. Neural networks require a great deal of information that has to be processed before any useful answers can be created. Depending on the size of the data and the hardware that is being used to process it, this can take a great deal of time to accomplish. These limits can hold back the AI designers as they try to train their AI programs. Creating AI algorithms is a difficult thing to do correctly. It’s very easy to make mistakes. One of the biggest problems in dealing with AI software is that when the program makes a decision, it can be very hard to know what factors went into creating that result. One of the biggest problems with AI software is that it does require a great deal of data to yield correct results. If there is too little training data, then the software won’t have enough examples with which to make good judgments. If the data is too narrow in its scope, then the AI software will have a distorted view of the world. If the data that is fed to the program is too old, then it won’t be able to recognize things have have happened recently. AI software can’t create new ways to solve problems – it only knows about what it has been told.

What All Of This Means For You

We live in a world that is already filled with artificial intelligence all around us. The future is going to have even more of this magical technology in it and as managers we need to take the time to make sure that we fully understand what is going on. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to change how things work and how we do team building and so and we need to be ready for that.

Our lives are already filled with artificial intelligence. Our mobile phones use it to help us communicate and our navigation systems use it to help us get from here to there. AI is preparing to play an even bigger role in our future. Self-driving cars, homes that sense when we are there, and automated package delivery will all be based on AI. AI is when we get a computer to do something that used to be considered a job that only a human could do. What used to be something that required a supercomputer to beat a chess champion is now something that lives in everyone’s mobile phone. AI first started to show up when the arrival of neural networks showed that human perception could be mimicked. AI is good at recognizing words, finding photos, planning routes, and helping with medical treatments. AI does have its own limitations which have to do with the power of the hardware that is used to process its data, the quantity and the quality of the data that it is fed, and the correctness of the software itself.

There is no doubt that AI is here to stay. Managers need to understand that AI will be working its way into more and more of the tools that we use and the applications that are used to run the company. We need to understand what AI is and what its limitations are. In the future, our lives will become better because of the decisions that AI allows us to make, but we need to make sure that we understand how those decisions are being made.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: AI is very powerful, but do you think that there are any IT jobs that AI will not be well suited to help out with?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ok manager, how is managing those millennials working out for you? I hope that you’ve come up with ways to make peace with them because it is just about time for the next batch of workers to show up on your doorstep: Generation Z. Do you have any manager training for dealing with this? This group of workers will be arriving battle-scarred, socially awkward, and driven by money. Are you going to be ready for this management challenge?

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