On the latest episode of The Best Run Podcast, I had a chat with Pete Chapman, Asia-Pacific Technology Director and Enterprise Architect for Ernest & Young, and Dr. Kim Oosthuizen, Innovation Principal at the Ecosystem Platform Office for SAP, about the reality of using artificial intelligence in business environments and what the future of AI looks like.

There’s still much confusion surrounding the fundamental questions of artificial intelligence, what is AI, what is capable of and what isn’t it capable of. Many of us were introduced to AI through pop culture depictions such as the friendly robot Rosie from The Jetsons or the rogue servant droid Sonny from I, Robot, which has set unrealistic expectations for their use.

Kim summarises AI in the simplest terms as “computational agents that act intelligently.” Performing tasks by using data, algorithms, and programs and processing a specific output or goal. Classified as ‘narrow’, the AI that exists today can only perform the task in the simple or specific domain its programmed to do so in, it can’t do anything outside of that.

As AI is merely an umbrella term for the vast array of intelligent technologies that exist, we can classify three categories of machine learning AI:
1. Analytical AI: Intelligence that we see 90% of businesses use today, AI that predict, recommend and mine data and learns from past experiences
2. Human Inspired AI: Intelligence with some extent of sentiment and reaction that must be programmed, e.g. chat bots
3. Humanised AI: Intelligence that understands human emotions and has considerable empathy to respond to the end user in a human-like or natural manner, potentially a technology that will be available very far into the future.

“We have a bit of a tendency at the moment to call everything intelligent just because it’s software.”

Passing the Turing Test
Speaking to Pete about the real world applications of AI, he made one thing clear, “you can’t call it AI unless it’s passing the Turing test in some way”. Referring to the test created by Alan Turing to determine whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human being. Using this logic as the foundation of our understanding of AI, we can apply this narrow technology to the business world of today.

“Through a machine learning angle, AI can detect patterns that you wouldn’t normally decipher through traditional statistical algorithms. An example would be, we’ve got a client that was using this technology to process applications for grants. They had a massive backlog that came up unexpectedly, and they used this machine learning to recognise what was tending to get approved and could identify and accelerate those application.

In order to keep things safe and apply their principles, they use the rule that the machine can say yes to something that is beneficial to the customer, but if the outcome is no, then it goes to a human to get double checked and processed. That’s the kind of thing that companies are doing to protect us from the AI getting it wrong and people being disadvantaged by this kind of technology.”



A benefit to businesses
Kim was able to concisely offer three of the major benefits that implementing AI technologies can offer business and dramatically change their day to day processes.

• With multiple data touch points across a businesses value chain, there is a risk of creating data complexity. AI acts to process that information and provide analytics and insights into what the data is saying and alternatively give insights into customers and sales alike.
• Customers expect that businesses are online 24/7 to answer queries which can be combated by the use of conversational AI and remove the necessity for a human to answer every query.
• With recent supply chain disruptions, this situation has created quite a lot of inefficiencies in operations and AI can assist by streamlining some of these processes by taking over the manual tasks and automating them to enable decision making.

Pete couldn’t agree more following on with the sentiment that “a lot of benefit can be achieved just by using logic and automating simple processes with the application of basic logic. I think people get confused with the notion that automating a process means you are using AI which isn’t the case. AI comes into play for very specific areas where you need something computed that something beyond simple logic to solve or decipher.”

“If a human can’t do it, it’s gonna be very hard to get an AI to do it.”

Unlike what the movies have made us believe, the true benefit of AI for businesses is the opportunity to allow the human worker to contribute to the process with the most value and leaving the relatively repetitive and tedious work to the intelligence to automate.

The binary function of humans and technology doesn’t exist in silos, one cannot exist without the other. With a balanced approach of human led and technology led workflows, incorporating artificial intelligence into your business is far from out of reach.

To hear more from our discussion about Artificial Intelligence, its challenges, responsible use and the future use of AI in business, listen to the full episode of The Best Run Podcast.