What is artificial intelligence? A succinct and simple enough question, yet one that sparks much debate in forums, journals and conferences around the world. Similar ideas and concepts are often thrown around when the question is posed; from machine learning, NLP and personalization, to those slightly further afield; centering around the rise of machines and the end of the human race as we know it. Let’s not mention specifics, yet there’s no doubt we can all guess the movie in question (think… “I’ll be back”). None of these definitions are incorrect and there’s a very good reason for this…
What AI is, isn’t a simple answer. In fact, the definition differs entirely from industry to industry. What AI is within Manufacturing, is completely different from what it might be in Healthcare, and completely different again from its applications in Biology. Because of its breadth of use-cases (and popularity amongst science fiction fans), there has been an increasing number of fallacies spread about the reality and implications of AI; the reality in the foreseeable future, at least. So, let’s set aside some of these assumptions and take a look at what AI truly is, or what it might become, within Information Management.
If there’s one phrase that could sum up what AI might look like in reality, it would be “hyper-personalization”. Or for the evocative purpose of this blog, “Personal-AI-zation”. Gone are the days when personalization looked like a marketing email addressing you by your first name. No, we’re now in an era of true personalization. Behavior identification, predictive analysis, deep learning and so on. These are the likely functions of AI – and their implications are very, very exciting for knowledge workers. Consider some of the challenges you face in your roles today; information overload, data silos appearing within your organization, too frequently missing critical insights… You know the story. AI can make these problems of the past.
Don’t believe it? How long do you spend searching for information in your day-to-day? Often, a knowledge worker spends the majority of their day sifting and sorting through an endless quantity of raw data and information, to produce an actionable insight for their organization. This information may be stored internally in an intranet or shared drive, or it might come from an online publication, or it might simply be saved in a document on their desktop. By the time this information is finally discovered, there is very little time left in the day to draw insights, inform stakeholders, and, ultimately, act upon that piece of information. This is where the power of AI can really be harnessed. AI can centralize and aggregate all of your information sources, and can then filter and sift through these, delivering you the information you need within seconds. Not only that – it can also draw insights and identify information critical to the stakeholders across your organization. Suddenly, you – the knowledge worker – have the opportunity to once again use your knowledge to analyze, add insight and ensure your organization is fully informed so that it is making the right decisions. Yes, this is a cursory example, but it does serve to identify the impact this level of “Personal-AI-zation” (there it is again) can have within knowledge management.
So, what is AI not? Primarily, it’s not the self-aware and autonomous intelligence that science fiction has led us to believe. In fact, largely it’s not even artificial intelligence at all: it is behavior replicated and learned from human experience. Maybe then… assisted intelligence? Augmented intelligence? Whether that is just semantics or not, it doesn’t really matter. What we can say is true of AI, is that it will make the burden of information that much lighter. It’s capacity to target and deliver (in a timely manner) the information critical to you, the individual, based on your needs will allow you to spend more time on the ‘value-add’ and less on the mundane.