Seizing AI’s opportunities

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Futures researcher and Sovelto Oyj’s Chairman Risto Linturi believes we are right now on the brink of the biggest breakthrough in information technology ever. If a company wants to be a part of this change, it had better start deploying artificial intelligence as soon as possible.

Computers are becoming increasingly similar to human brains. A person’s memory is associative – meaning that one mental impression evokes another. When a computer can do that, artificial intelligence will be able to learn faster and more effectively than existing IT systems.

“When we’ve successfully developed neural network processors, we’ll have far superior systems compared to today’s. Deploying these new systems will produce such a huge social upheaval that many old structures will crumble,” predicts Linturi.

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to self-learning systems that are capable of detecting shape from a large mass of data derived from observation. Multi-layered deep learning enables the best AI deployments to, for instance, compete with a simultaneous interpreter in translation tasks. AI can also use patient data to decide more reliably than a human about who is at risk of a heart attack.

Consumer applications of AI are already available in the USA. A smart agent, for example, chats with its owner, gives weather forecasts, orders a taxi and books a hotel room. Combinations of services and AI are already deployed in smartphones.

“In many sectors, a company’s future will depend on applying AI technology. Nevertheless, we need experience to know what we’re doing. The best economic benefit from AI will be gained if learning is started in time. And it’s already time to start,” says Linturi.

The development of AI from scratch requires so many resources that it is only an option for large enterprises. The application of AI, however, is a platform business: smaller companies can find good business opportunities by refining and deploying the ideas of bigger companies, and by offering services to them. The likeliest prospects will be found in those functions best suited to AI’s properties.

1. Detecting deviation

Artificial intelligence is good at comparing collected data to earlier observations and at reacting to something abnormal. Computers have done this before, but sophisticated artificial intelligence can navigate even more complex situations and can learn from the feedback it receives. It can monitor the behaviour of people, machines, factories and nature. This could be of great help in agriculture. If leaves of a plant start turning yellow at the wrong time, AI can generate an alarm, ask whether this is normal and propose solutions. In a greenhouse, a machine will learn to monitor and regulate conditions, and step by step improve in doing this.

2. Optimisation

AI is good at optimising ­– in other words, at selecting from a number of options the strategy producing the best result. This is useful not only in gaming, but also in many other activities, such as trading in shares and in choosing the best route for a taxi. Artificial intelligence learns to adjust quality to suit a specific customer and to predict when a machine needs servicing. When deployed in customer service, AI can detect when a customer needs to be passed over to a more experienced advisor.

3. Talking with people

When artificial intelligence has the capability of forming a basic outline, it can be developed further. Large corporations like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are developing AI applications using large masses of data that can converse about almost anything. New business opportunities exist in teaching this type of AI some special skill. In customer service, AI could handle the first stage and transfer a customer to be served by a human when its own skills are no longer adequate. A customer would converse with the AI by speaking or by using a keyboard. A speaking robot would also be handy for filling in forms. AI skilled in languages could, for example, assist a Chinese tourist visiting Lapland.

4. Utilising visual observations

Combining visual observation, measuring instruments and artificial intelligence will probably be a source of many innovations. AI that recognises weeds could roam a field and kill unwanted growth with a laser, eliminating the need for chemical herbicides. A smart camera drone could fly over forests and detect the best locations for picking berries. AI could identify Parkinson’s disease from a video showing the patient walking. Also, rapid facial micro-expressions would be easy for artificial intelligence to interpret if there was a sufficient pool of data. Artificial intelligence linked to a camera or AR lasers could detect whether people one encountered are angry or intend to steal your wallet. The data needed could be acquired, for example, with an app by crowdsourcing.

5. Transferring expertise

Machine learning is slower in the early stages than a human, but as observations accumulate it becomes a fast learner. When a Google car has driven three million kilometres, all Google cars with AI will have equivalent driving experience to draw on. An individual human is just not able to acquire so much experience and learn from it. Compared to people, machine learning is unbeatable in passing on expertise. Risto Linturi points out, though, that understanding or common sense are beyond its capabilities.

Photo: Juha Saastamoinen

Risto Linturi

  • A futurist, entrepreneur and Executive Catalyst at  Sovelto Oyj. His views and inventions have been reported by major media in five continents.
  • Born 1957.
  • Education: Teknillinen korkeakoulu – Tekniska Högskolan.
  • Specialties: Creating innovative strategies for corporations and districts, giving visionary speeches, working as an experienced board member, creating high profile media visibility for high tech projects, Radical Innovation Triangle method

Sovelto Oyj

  • A Finnish company, specialising in training and consultation, founded in 1999. Approximately 30,000 people trained every year, with an average course rating of 4.6 (on a scale from 1 to 5)
  • Where: Helsinki and Tampere, Finland
  • Employees: 55.
  • Aims at: Making Finns the most productive and the most relaxed people in the world.