What lies on the horizon for AI in 2020?
Author: Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and co-founder of Prospex and Fountech
The UK is currently the powerhouse of European AI, home to nearly 500 AI start-ups – a third of the continent’s total and twice as many as any other country in Europe. The pace of innovation in this space means that AI adoption and integration has been seen across a significant number of industries and has created solutions to long-standing problems. Yet still today, there are still businesses who are not leveraging AI to their full advantage.
The reasons range from a lack of knowledge about specific AI technologies to not knowing the nuts and bolts of integrating an AI algorithm into an existing legacy system. Fortunately, the number of AI consultancies, think tanks and developers is growing, providing third party solutions to those seeking to learn just how AI can benefit them.
So, with the new year soon upon us, what trends are likely to shape the UK’s AI industry?
One trend that we are certain to see in 2020 is the ongoing uptake of AI automation in the private sector. At its core, automation refers to hardware or software performing tasks without human intervention. In other words, it ensures that tedious and time-consuming tasks originally assigned to human workers can be undertaken by sophisticated AI technologies. According to 2019 research by CIPD, almost a third (32%) of UK organisations have invested in AI and automation in the last five years.
With AI’s ability to shoulder the burden of repetitive, complex or time-consuming tasks, I expect to see increasing numbers of organisations taking advantage of the benefits it has to offer; both in terms of streamlining operations and allowing employees to focus on more creative and value-adding tasks. Automation is AI at its most fundamental and effective form, and there are few companies that are not positioned to benefit from it.
AI will be used for the greater good
However, the advantages of AI are not just limited to the private sector. While corporates are well positioned to adopt and experiment with new technologies as a result of their resources, the relatively inexpensive nature of AI means the public sector and non-for-profit organisations can also benefit from it.
We’ve already seen some of the fantastic use-cases of AI across different industries: it is being used to detect cancers at better rates than human doctors, democratise education by offering inexpensive and tailor-made learning solutions adapted to individuals’ learning styles, and is even able to support relief workers and first responders more effectively when dealing with immediate crises.
In the coming year, I believe AI is poised to have a transformative effect on how we overcome societal issues in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Take healthcare, for instance. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has struggled to meet demand for its public healthcare services, which is why one of its current aims is to become a world leader in the use of AI and machine learning technologies. Plans include using carefully targeted AI to speed up the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, as well as improving the delivery of targeted care by transforming existing outpatient services.
Could we see the rise of Artificial General Intelligence?
Many of the terms relating to AI can be complex to understand for those who only have a limited understanding of the technology. After all, AI is in many ways an umbrella term used to encapsulate various subsets of smart technology, like machine learning. One aspect of AI which is set to become a leading topic of discussion in 2020 is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Put simply, AGI describes the ability of a machine to independently perform any task that a human can.
It’s easy to see why people might think AGI is already being used in practice: indeed, deep learning algorithms are being applied on social media sites to recognise objects and people in images – mimicking a human’s recognition capabilities – while Natural Language Processing (NLP) means that chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming ever more proficient at understanding human speech and text, and providing a response.
However, AGI is so much more than simply replicating the basic actions and elementary thought processes of humans. The aforementioned examples, while impressive, reflect AI’s ability to perform a single function rather than a range of human capabilities, as AGI denotes. For example, basic AI might be better than a human at recognising faces in images, but it would struggle to compete with its human counterpart when it comes to undertaking functions beyond its very limited skill set.
Nonetheless, there are some exciting advancements in the AGI space, and I believe that in 2020, society will begin to develop an understanding of what this next generation of AI technology will look like.
The future looks promising: there is strong recognition of the increasing importance of AI across both the private and public sector, and a thirst to continue pushing the technology’s potential. Importantly, businesses and organisations are already able to take advantage of existing AI toolsets, which is why we are likely to see AI’s ongoing proliferation in the private and public sectors in 2020 and beyond.