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Introduction

Artificial Intelligence (AI), the ability of a machine or a computer program to think and learn like a human, for decades was more fiction than reality. But today it’s impacting nearly every industry – from agriculture to manufacturing, healthcare, fintech and insurance, cyber security, retail, travel, sports, logistics, marketing and more. And the global race is on to take the lead in AI. In fact, China las t summer unveiled its plan to become the world leader in AI and create an industry worth $150 billion to its economy by 2030. Technologists here see this as a direct challenge to America’s lead in arguably the most important tech research to come along in decades.

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We’re already using AI, interacting with technology in new ways – from giving voice commands to washer-dryers to playing advanced gesture-controlled video games. What does the future hold? Here are a few trends to mull over, some in the near future, some down the road:

  • Consumers will become even more comfortable with voice-based interfaces (Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple’s Airpod), as smart assistants become integrated into computers, smartphones and even televisions.
  • Robots will be doing more of the heavy lifting with human workers taking over high-end jobs including robot maintenance and operation. This means warehouses and logistics will become more efficient. Amazon already uses over 100,000 robots in various warehouses, but at the same time the company is creating thousands of new jobs for humans in its new fulfillment centers.
  • AI is giving surveillance cameras digital brains to match their eyes, letting them analyze live video with no humans necessary. This could be good news for public safety, assisting police and first responders to better spot crimes and accidents; what’s more, these brains have a range of scientific and industrial applications. However, it also raises serious questions about the future of privacy.
  • Experts predict that, within the next decade, AI will outperform humans in relatively simple tasks such as translating languages, writing school essays, and driving trucks. More complicated tasks like writing a bestselling book or working as a surgeon, however, will take machines much more time to learn. AI is expected to master these two skills by 2049 and 2053 accordingly. Brands like USA Today, CBS and Hearst are already using AI technology to generate content.
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is working with a company to develop a series of robots designed for “disaster relief,” though the technology could be used in a combat role as well.

On the marketing front, which is in our wheelhouse, marketers are looking at how AI can help social media advertisers, such as ways to enhance business intelligence, marketing research and forecasting accuracy; generate leads and acquire customers; enrich the customer experience with AI-enhanced call center technology, bots and virtual digital assistants, smarter search interfaces and recommender systems that help with different types of customer support; and content creation and dynamic creative to generate on-demand ads, articles, summaries, promotional materials, etc. 

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The Bottom Line on AI

A survey conducted in late 2017 of senior executives across all industry sectors on the role of AI revealed some interesting takeaways (Marketing Professionals):

  • 64% say AI will eventually allow staff to perform more varied roles by enabling employees to find solutions to problems that would previously have been referred up the chain of command
  • 79% say it will be standard practice to use AI to schedule/coordinate work within five years
  • 76% say AI will be used as part of quality control within the next five years
  • 70% of executives expect robotic (AI-driven) automation to principally replace or support human workers in administrative roles within 20 years, with some 41% expecting robotic automation to principally replace or support human workers in customer-facing roles within 20 years.

How are you using AI to impact your industry?