Rise of A.I. — Exploring Our New Superpowers

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Editor’s note: Guest post by Chris Mohritz, an AI entrepreneur and AI technologist. He is leading the Using AI Workshop at Gigaom AI.

Even as someone who eats, breathes and sleeps technology, it’s still amazing to me how much progress the artificial intelligence fields have made over the last few years.

Everything has taken major strides — from human parity in natural speech and visual recognition to the widespread adoption of self-driving cars and virtual personal assistants.

And of course, with all of these advances comes a great deal of exposure — and confusion.

We got it wrong.

For far too long, A.I. has been demonized in the mainstream media as something that will oust human beings.

But I believe the mainstream has it wrong.

To put in bluntly, A.I. is not replacement, it’s augmentation.

And I believe this misconception has been a disservice to business leaders by incorrectly framing the adoption of A.I. within business contexts.

So let’s clear things up a bit.

The struggle.

Things are moving at an exponential rate these days and A.I.-powered tools have gotten to the point where they are no longer just a competitive advantage — they’ve become a necessity just to stay in the game.

And while the early adopters are eager to further explore how to capture more and more value from A.I., many businesses are still struggling to figure out what it all means and how it applies to them.

In my consulting work I see this struggle quite a bit — business leaders getting bogged down while trying to wrap their heads around the onslaught of media opinions and the overwhelming speed at which new A.I. tools are being introduced.

But adopting and implementing an A.I. strategy is not as difficult as it may sound.

A new perspective.

As with any decision, the first step is wrapping your head around how it applies to your business. And that starts by putting the tools into context — for your business.

And I like to start that process for my clients by asking them a simple question:

“Do you want to be Batman or Ironman?”

A rather disarming question that I think does a great job of framing how to adopt A.I.

Let me explain a little further…

Superpowers

To keep things as down-to-earth as possible, I like to think of A.I.-powered tools as superpowers. Because — in a sense — that’s exactly what they are.

No, A.I. can’t make you fly or shoot lasers from your eyes, but they can allow you to see into the mind of your customer, work at fantastic speeds, predict the future — even empower one person to do the work of thousands.

Who doesn’t love a good superhero story!

So let’s clarify what I mean by Batman and Ironman…

The utility belt.

Batman is a regular ol’ guy with a utility belt full of gadgets. And it’s from all those wonderful gadgets that he gains his superpowers. The gadgets are discrete tools that he picks and chooses from as they apply to his current situation.

In business terms, ‘Batman’ is people enhanced by technology. A business that is centered on face-to-face interaction. Customers see the people, not the tech — and in this context, A.I. should be focused on enhancing the people. e.g. Starbucks, Target, Home Depot, etc.

The super suit.

Whereas Ironman is also a regular ol’ guy, but he is completely enveloped in a suit. The suit is made up of multiple tools that function as a cohesive whole. The guy inside operates the suit and it is from that suit that he gains his superpowers.

In business terms, ‘Ironman’ is a technology platform driven by people. A business that is centered on purely digital interaction. Customers see the tech, not the people — and in this context, A.I. should be focused on enhancing the tech. e.g. Uber, Google, Amazon, etc.

Framing.

In my experience, the Batman/Ironman question seems to do a good job of keeping things in perspective and streamlining the adoption process — making decisions a bit easier and more strategic.

But the real power of this analogy comes from applying it at the employee or group levels versus the business level.

For example:

  • Your sales staff may be Batman, while your marketing department may be more effective in Ironman mode. Or
  • Does your H.R. Manager need an A.I.-powered personality analysis tool in her utility belt? Or
  • Will adding a predictive lead scoring tool to our website super suit boost conversion rates?

With me so far? Then let’s go ahead and dive into this new era of superpowers.

A World Full of APIs

Fortunately, the landscape is already awash with powerful APIs that are easy to use and can provide a quick and substantial ROI.

IBM alone has done a great job of breaking down their Watson APIs into easily-digestible chunks.

So it’s time to start stocking up your utility bet or building your super suit.

Because it’s not about finding that one silver bullet tool, it’s about deploying a range of A.I.-powered tools. Tools that enhance human knowledge and experience. And amplify the people that use them — making them exponentially more productive. Dare I say it — making them superhuman.

For example:

  • Create products with the power of natural speech using Amazon Alexa
  • Peer into the mind of your customer using IBM Watson
  • Analyze the emotional reactions of your shoppers using Google Cloud
  • Fatten up your sales pipeline using Salesforce Einstein

The new battlefield.

If you’re just getting started and are looking for the best on ramp, current A.I. tools are ideally-suited for improving customer experience.

Which is perfect, considering Gartner predicts customer experience to be the primary brand differentiator moving forward.

What an amazing world we are moving into — a literal age of superpowers.

On a Journey

Since the dawn of time, human beings have been using technology to enhance our lives. And A.I. is just another chapter in that story.

But A.I. isn’t a single technology that’s waiting to be discovered and unleashed into the world — it’s an evolving revolution.

So let’s jump on board.

Digging Deeper

I’m excited to introduce a new blog series dedicated to exploring all the wonderful A.I.-powered APIs out there. Each post will outline a new API and give you clear steps into how to get started with that new tool.

This new series was designed with developers and aspiring entrepreneurs in mind so it will be hands-on.

The potential for this new series is exciting and I would love to hear your feedback at ai@gigaom.com — what would you like to learn about?

Join me on this journey as I explore all these game-changing tools.

What new superpowers will you give your business?


Christopher Mohritz is a lifelong entrepreneur and technologist with a number of successful businesses under his belt; bringing a unique blend of technology know-how coupled with creative thinking and business acumen to each of his projects.

Since 2009, Chris has been building and leveraging artificial intelligence systems to cognify a wide range of business functions — marketing, sales, customer support and decision automation to name a few. And over the past five years, he has been building and operating a business accelerator for web/mobile startups, helping other entrepreneurs launch exceptional “AI-first” businesses.

Chris draws heavily from a deep background in technology — from operating nuclear reactors in the U.S. Navy to designing datacenters at Lockheed Martin. Complemented by a broad range of business experience — from technical sales for the Fortune 500 to project management in the public sector. Allowing Chris to bring a seasoned and unique strategic vision to implementing cognitive systems that drive real-world business value.

Chris Mohritz is leading the Using AI Workshop in San Francisco, on February 14th. Join us! Or come to Gigaom AI on February 15-16.

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