Ai-laggers will not survive. Unequal struggle in times of technological breakthrough

Listening to the stories told by Ai specialists today, one can conclude that the world is polarized. On one side, we find people who think that Ai is another buzzword repeated by marketers who need fuel for their stories. On the other hand, those who seem to understand the mechanics of artificial intelligence a bit deeper, so they can imagine its consequences. Who’s right? Is AI a new wave, a trend on which a group of specialists will take a moment to change into something else in a moment? Or maybe we are dealing with a real technical revolution like a steam engine?

Artificial and real revolutions

The division that I outlined in the introduction arises mainly from the fact that each of us has already seen many revolutions, which turned out to be small corrections to the current reality. An example could be cloud computing, which brings a novelty in the form of virtualization and its consequences, but ultimately it does not deserve the title of revolution and on the plan of the most important technological changes it can be safely joined to the group of numerous improvements of the Third Technical Revolution

We are taught that buzzwords appear and disappear like flies, so we are ready to include Ai in the passing fad of several geeks and the new Holy Grail of marketers. We’ve known neural networks since the 1940s, so what’s the excitement here? 

Nothing more wrong. 

First of all, one should deal with the argument that if something was known for a long time, it cannot deserve to be called a revolution, if we find the right application for it much later. There are many examples, but probably the most representative is the one in which we can safely say that the ancients knew the basics of the steam engine and even built its prototypes, while the real revolution based on steam began at least several centuries later. Much water passed in the rivers before the “right” time came to disseminate the old and well-known concept. 

Similarly with Ai. The fact that we know the idea of ​​designing neural networks for almost 80 years, but its potential comes true today, should not surprise anyone. Civilization previously did not meet other conditions: we did not have enough data, and we did not have the appropriate technology and computing power. Today both these conditions seem to be realized, so the race has started. 

Secondly, hardly anyone understands Ai today, so there is a ludic rule that says that if we don’t know something, it’s better to laugh and ignore it. Seneca once invented the metaphor of “sour apples” for this psychology: we come to the apple tree and we see that the best apples grow high, we cannot reach them, so we break those that are within our reach, while recognizing those above as sour. 

No one has illustrated this principle as well as Jack Ma of Alibaba during the recent debate with Elon Musk in Shanghai. I think it is the best reflection of the division I am trying to outline here. 

A great change

How to quickly illustrate the capabilities of modern Ai models? Probably different examples will impress different people, but this one seems objective. Do you remember the match of Lee Sedol (champion with the 9th dan) and AlphaGo in the game Go popular in Southeast Asia? The victory of the machine was unquestionable (4: 1 for AlphaGo), and the moves used by it today drop the jaws of the greatest strategists of the game among Homo Sapiens. Only that a year has passed and AlphaGo’s successor – AlphaGo Zero – beat its predecessor 100:0. Here is a real picture of the place where we found ourselves today. 

The possibilities of modern Ai models today are unbelievably large, and the application … well, simply universal. Ai works in all industry sectors we can imagine today and not as a curiosity-prototype , but as a normal system supporting management, control, decision-making, categorization, recognition, suggesting and many other activities. 

The impact Ai impresses all over the world is enormous. Do you want statistics? Here you are. 

– The Ai market is growing at a rate of 55.6% year on year.
– 77% of all devices we use have at least one function with Ai working.
– 47% of companies in the world have Ai strategy already implemented or just being implemented.
– 84% of managers believe that Ai gives them a market advantage.
– 80% of managers believe that by the end of 2020 their industry will cease to look as it used to be.
– 54% of jobs in Europe are at risk of being liquidated because of Ai.
– In 2030, thanks to Ai, the value of the world economy will increase by USD 15.7 trillion. 

Ai is not new. It is a standard tool used in production, and those who do not use it move away from the leaders every day faster, lose the market and eventually condemn themselves to commercial non-existence. 

Can you bite the biggest?

You certainly feel that in the field of artificial intelligence, market mechanisms have worked, which we know from other industries – the largest and most spectacular implementations of Ai are controlled by big ones – AWS, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Amazon, BP etc. They have money to attract the best artificial intelligence scholars and enthusiasts from around the world, so it’s no wonder they are consolidating the industry. 

If small and medium enterprises do not implement the Ai strategy today, the gap between them and the colossi will only widen. And at the pace at which Amazon, for example, is swallowing today independent e-commerce businesses (and in fact the entire retail industry) around the world. 

It’s easy to say, but it’s harder to do – you thought. 

Well, implementing Ai’s strategy will not look like ordering cleaning products for a company office, but it is not as challenging as some people think. Below is a recipe (tailored to the capabilities of an SME) that may save your organization. 

  1. Find an adviser. You really don’t have to start building a large department in your company by investing in (I assure you, high) steady payouts. Look for an agency on the market that gathers the necessary business, scientific and technological experts.
  2. Let them understand what you do, what your processes look like and who you would like to be in the future. I know, maybe you have an idea for Ai in your companies today, but don’t articulate it right away. Allow yourself to see your business through the eyes of people who cut their teeth on Ai.
  3. Plan a short-term strategy and start the Proof of Concept stage as soon as possible. I believe that action gives more information than continuous and long-term planning. What’s more, the pace at which Ai is growing today means that spending time on big thoughts is actually a waste of time.
  4. Find the right tools. The Ai and ML market is growing fast, and tools improving the work of Machine Learning Engineers (MLEs) arrive almost every day. You are not doomed to leave a fortune in AWS or Azure – companies and organizations that compete with the largest and provide tools in the SaaS, PaaS and Open Source models are really a lot. You can save above average money in this way.
  5. Collect feedback from the first implementation and improve the processes in your company as soon as possible. They will mainly concern what data you collect and which you should collect, and how you should structure it. At the other extreme – the business one – check whether your project has brought business value (to you and your clients), so whether you managed to save money or managed to increase sales. After all, these two things will always be the most important for you.
  6. If all KPIs are in plus, go back to point 2 and start watching your company from scratch. If you feel this is not it, go back to point 1 and find a more effective partner. 

Science fiction quite real

Why am I writing this? Well, I think that the script of movies such as Terminator and Matrix, as well as books such as Dune or Count Zero – despite what different professionals will tell you with a smile – is quite real. Let us repeat: the struggles of the largest corporations (at least in terms of market value) over who will ultimately rule the world are in full swing. Entire markets are consolidating, and Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook have the capital to let them make the most of the Ai revolution. 

If we are not part of this revolution, we will simply lose.

Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay.

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