- The current revolution in artificial intelligence (AI) is not the first of its kind experienced by humanity
- Where human ingenuity flags, machine intelligence is (again) stepping into the breach to make us more productive
- Companies that are already implementing AI solutions gain a competitive advantage, while others are forced to play catchup
Humans are good at a lot of things. We have, in a relatively short period of time, come to dominate the planet. Our cleverness has allowed us to outcompete virtually every other multicellular organism on Earth. We can overcome physically superior beasts by our intelligence and ability to cooperate in groups. We overcome natural forces and harsh environments through ingenuity, adaptability and perseverance. We have overcome time and distance through inventions such as mail, telephones, airplanes and the Internet. We really are remarkable.
But there are some things we don’t do so well. For instance, try recalling sequence of random numbers or words (or anything else) that is more than seven items long. Or, try to remember where you were at 1:47 p.m. two weeks ago on Thursday – and don’t cheat! Now picture a five-dimensional graph. Try doing calculus problems for a week without sleeping (better yet – try doing calculus problems!). Do any math problem on a timer with your life savings on the line. You get the idea. For some things, we just need help. As it turns out, machines can do all the things I just listed without hesitation, error or complaint – plus much, much more.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. AI is just a term for machines programmed to ingest and process information as they help humans achieve our goals. It allows us to extend our intelligence beyond what any of us could do with the wetware we were born with. We often think of AI being the brains of a robot; however, AI includes much more mundane applications, including figuring out which gadgets or books to show me next on Amazon, or even what the weather is likely to be in Albuquerque next Tuesday.
Now, it may seem like this use of technology to extend our mental capabilities is a new thing – but it’s not. There is some historical precedent here. For example, about 5,000 years ago in the region that is now greater Baghdad, some people got the idea that if they associated meaning to symbols (e.g. “Let’s let these bird-like scratches stand for an actual bird”), and then etched those symbols onto something long-lasting, like a stone, those symbols could, in effect, store information (e.g. “Find birds here!”). Before writing, information only existed in our heads. With this stone-based information storage technology, humanity extended its collective memory from what living people could recall to whatever anyone ever bothered to scratch into a stone. Those stone tablets were the first revolution in artificial intelligence – extending human memory dramatically across time and between brains. It appears that the first use cases of this form of artificial intelligence were to record business transactions – we essentially invented stone-based AI for accounting.
Today, the ubiquity of data and computing power has brought about the new AI revolution. Machines are now taking on a continually growing portfolio of tasks that human brains are not particularly good at. In B2B, that means seeing meaningful patterns hidden in huge data sets; optimizing the balance of complex, competing goals such as increasing conversion rates and deal values; and automating repetitive, data-driven tasks such as content personalization.
At this year’s Summit, we will reveal a new framework to help product, marketing and sales professionals figure out how to start and in which direction to continue their adoption of AI in the revenue engine. One of the key things we will discuss is how implementing AI in virtually any part of the revenue engine can drive improvement throughout the organization. And we’ll have some fun while we do it (hint: What does Cookie Monster have in common with Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey?). We hope you’ll join us!