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In January 2023, ChatGPT, the now ubiquitous chatbot from OpenAI, reached 100 million active monthly users, outpacing TikTok by seven months as the fastest platform to reach this milestone.
The chatbot’s ubiquitous presence and popularity have renewed a decades-long debate about the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI).
Google search trends for AI have soared since the service launched, and companies are rushing to lap up domains from Anguilla, population 15,000, looking to benefit from its .ai domain registration.
At the same time, investors are pouring money into generative AI startups, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and capitalize on this technology to find the next big tech breakthrough. As one AI investor recently told the New York Times, “We’re in that phase of the market where it’s, like, let 1,000 flowers bloom.”
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Today, the hype cycle is so hot that even companies without legitimate AI credentials are trying to align themselves with the technology, prompting the Federal Trade Commission to issue a terse warning to companies: “If you think you can get away with baseless claims that your product is AI-enabled, think again.”
The hype cycle can be so ludicrous that Axios reporter Felix Salmon recently explained, “When a company starts talking loudly about its AI abilities, the first question should always be: “Why is this company talking loudly about its AI abilities?”
To be sure, this isn’t the first rodeo for AI speculation. The technology is more than half a century old, and it’s been through many boom and bust cycles that yielded significant technological advances but have continually failed to fully live up to the hype.
In other words, developing AI products and services that are repeatable, scalable and sellable has historically been difficult and often prohibitively expensive. However, by looking at the ways AI is already making the most significant impact, we can paint a clearer and possibly more accurate picture of what it will look like moving forward.
Here are three ways AI is impacting our world today, which can provide a useful roadmap for how it might actually change the world tomorrow.
1. Helping people make better decisions
In our data-saturated digital-first world, AI is helping people make better decisions. It can sift through billions of data points, synthesizing key insights and equipping people to make pivotal decisions.
In this way, AI is a tool to empower people, sharpening their intuition and enabling them to make more informed decisions. It’s not a substitute for human discernment but a powerful aid that enhances our ability to make better real-world choices.
Take the security industry as an example.
It’s difficult to find a physical space that isn’t monitored by at least one camera. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that installed surveillance cameras grew by 50% between 2015 and 2018, exceeding 70 million cameras by the decade’s end. Monitoring the footage is an entirely different story, and tasking humans with watching endless uninteresting camera feeds is a recipe for boredom and inattention.
That’s where AI steps in, acting as a vigilant and tireless sentinel. By filtering out the mundane, such as rustling trees or passing cars, AI zeroes in on the most pertinent information. It’s a whiz at detecting anomalies, like unexpected activity in a deserted parking lot. Even so, there is a meaningful difference between identification and discernment.
This is where human judgment swoops in. Security personnel or other trained experts can review the camera footage and assess and address accordingly any suspicious behavior. In this tandem of AI and human expertise, we witness the birth of a comprehensive and effective security system, reaping the benefits of both worlds.
Simply put, AI is a catalyst, powering more efficient and effective decision-making across myriad domains. From interpreting earnings reports to bolstering security intelligence, AI amplifies our capacity for sound judgment but never replaces it.
2. Analyzing risk to enable better safety solutions
Rising concerns over cybersecurity and physical security threats have led many individuals and businesses to prioritize their safety. AI plays a vital role in improving both physical and cyber protection by assessing risks and streamlining user experiences, ultimately enhancing safety for everyone.
One example is companies’ growing adoption of two-factor authentication (2FA) to safeguard user accounts and network access. While this may cause some inconvenience, it significantly bolsters security for all users. Banks, too, have implemented 2FA for more secure transactions.
Consumers find it incredibly annoying and chafe at the extra friction it imposes on their online experiences. AI enables us to surpass basic 2FA by introducing more advanced authentication methods that do not sacrifice user experience.
This principle also applies to physical security. For instance, fans attending sporting events often face long lines and security checks at venue entrances, which can negatively impact their overall experience, so venues are using AI-powered security solutions to better serve and protect their patrons.
Regardless of the scenario, AI allows companies to analyze risk to enable better security solutions that elevate customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Personalizing and enhancing consumer experiences
A compelling customer experience is key to long-term business success. More than half of consumers say they will abandon a brand after a single bad customer experience.
AI’s remarkable potential to generate deeply customized and improved consumer experiences across diverse sectors is undeniably transformative. By evaluating user data, preferences and behaviors, AI enables digital platforms to offer recommendations, services and products tailored to each person’s requirements and preferences.
The entertainment industry is already experiencing a revolution through AI-driven personalization. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify use AI algorithms to examine user preferences, viewing history and listening patterns, creating individualized playlists or film suggestions.
This approach is quickly becoming ubiquitous across sectors as it enhances users’ engagement and satisfaction, making it more likely that they will continue to use the service and recommend it to others.
Real-world AI matters most
The transformative power of AI is evident in its ability to reshape industries and improve various aspects of our daily lives.
From empowering individuals to make better decisions to providing advanced safety solutions and delivering personalized consumer experiences, AI has proven its potential to bring about game-changing advancements.
The AI hype cycle is far from over. However, as we contemplate the technology’s incredible advancements, we can look to existing use cases and implications to better understand its future impact and potential.
Peter Evans is CEO of Xtract One Technologies.
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