AI+ business and life: it's coming, get ready

I was chatting yesterday with a senior lawyer friend of mine who said to me, “I’ll be out of a job in 10 years.” I think he’s right and wrong– he’ll be out of his job as it exists today, and it will be less than 10 years. However, I predict he’s highly likely to be doing a job that makes use of his extensive legal experience that pairs him up with artificial intelligence to do the more mundane work of sifting through reams of background data to give him what he needs to develop client solutions.

This conversation with my lawyer friend came up as I was telling him about a fireside chat I moderated last week at startup conference Echelon in Singapore. I chatted with Chih-Han Yu, the brilliant and personable co-founder of Appier, a mobile advertising technology company that has artificial intelligence at its core.

Chih-Han’s biography is an impressive record of research and practice in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, including a PhD in robotics from Harvard, and involvement in developing various projects such as collaborative robotics for people with polio to assist them with walking.

Chih-Han spoke about the opportunities for businesses thinking about how to use artificial intelligence, saying that any industry that’s producing reams of data presents an opportunity to create “AI+”. What AI+ means is that we can add artificial intelligence to existing business models to improve product offerings and efficiencies. This could be better financial decision making, medically assisted health decisions or more personalised education for students.

His advice for businesses: define a customer need and/or business problem like you normally would, and then review where you can then add sets of data to incorporate AI.

(As an aside – I heard a great quote from the CEO of Fetch Robotics at a recent presentation too, where she described AI as potentially taking on any tasks that fit in the Three Ds: “dirty, dull and dangerous.”)

If you work in the media agency or publisher world, you’ve already seen the initial wave of automation and machine learning directly impacting how we buy and sell media. It has completely changed how we work and operate. Some would say for the worse, some for the better. Either way, it’s going to continue and we need to be ready for what’s coming next.

For anyone working in the professions, I’d suggest reading a fascinating book called “The Future of Professions” by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind. They make well-founded predictions about the impact of technology and artificial intelligence on the professions, particularly law. Major disruption is on its way.

We’re starting to work with some clients now where we’re assessing how to apply automation or machine learning to areas of their business to improve products and performance beyond marketing. The potential is huge and also a little unnerving. I figure it’s best we start to think now about what is coming though, so we can prepare our businesses and teams – not to mention our children – for the roles of the future which will no doubt have them working in very different ways to us, collaboratively with AI.