In January 2015, Professor Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and several other eminent artificial intelligence experts warned the world of the dangers of AI. In their open letter, they said that society could reap major benefits from AI technology. They also called for more research into the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. We are a long way from a computer running amok in the world. We are even further away from robots ruling our planet. We are, however, at the dawn of the age of intelligent computer programs.
To understand how AI bots can be used in business, we must first consider what bots are and what the capabilities of AI are. The terms bots, chatbots, and AI are often used interchangeably. But they are three very different things.
A bot is a computer program that performs repetitive tasks. The web crawlers that Google uses to index websites are bots. Google’s web crawlers visit websites. They download the content of the website for indexing. And, they add any hyperlinks they find to a list of URLs to be crawled.
Most bots are not intelligent. They can only perform the tasks that they are programmed to perform. Most importantly, most bots do not have the ability to learn. They simply complete their programmable repetitive task.
Chatbots are computer programs that simulate computer speech. They interact with humans conversationally. The first chatbot was developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1994. His chatbot, known as ELIZA, responded to a human speaking by recognizing spoken keywords.
Even though ELIZA was not intelligent, the chatbot could appear to be uncannily human. This was achieved by it responding to some keywords with a follow-on question. For example, it the bot heard the word “mother”, it would respond with; “tell me more about your mother”. Even so, its available responses were limited to a very small number of keywords.
Artificial Intelligence “AI” refers to a computer program that can learn. What we have today is called narrow AI. An example of narrow AI that most people are familiar with are personal assistants, such as Siri and Alexa. Both Siri and Alexa learn from their mistakes. Through their misunderstanding human speech, they are improving their speech recognition. When AI is added to bots, we get intelligent, AI bots. AI bots can perform repetitive tasks, and they can learn.
General AI is the AI of tomorrow. That is the artificial intelligence that will more closely mimic adaptable intellect found in humans. General AI is the type of artificial intelligence that Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk expressed their concerned about in their open letter of 2015.
Artificial intelligence has many practical applications in business. AI can provide business intelligence (BI) insights that would take thousands of hours for a human to uncover. AI can learn from consumers’ buying habits and make product recommendations. And, much to the relief of many, AI has transformed chatbots from annoying gatekeepers into a useful customer service tool. In banking and finance, AI is being used to detect fraud. These are only a few examples of the possible applications of AI technology.
AI Bots automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Through machine learning, they can also adapt to the changing circumstances they encounter. With the advances that have been in speech recognition, AI bots can now conversationally communicate with humans. AI bots have many potential benefits for all types of businesses:
AI bots never tire, never take breaks, and they never need a vacation. That means that AI chatbots, for example, can provide 24/7 customer service, 365 days a year.
Humans are limited by the number of tasks they can undertake at the same time. An AI bot does not have this limitation. An AI bot can take thousands of customer orders at the same time. So, no more frustration for customers when they attempt to place an order at a peak time.
AI bots can complete the repetitive tasks that humans dislike doing. This will give human employees more time to focus on what humans do best; being creative.
Unlike humans, AI bots don’t have off-days. A chatbot will always respond to a customer with courtesy in the way that it has been programmed to. An AI bot will not get bored with tasks and lose concentration.
As is always that case with new technology, many businesses have yet to see the potential that AI holds for them. The potential applications of AI bots are far-reaching. All businesses will eventually have to use AI, or they will find themselves competing with it.
It wasn’t too long ago that many businesses refused to embrace the internet. Today, no business can afford not to have a website and a social media presence. How can a business get a foot on the AI ladder now? They can begin by asking themselves what processes they can automate with an AI bot and partnering with a skilled development partner that can guide them through the process.
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