Microsoft and Artificial Intelligence

 

Last week, ClerksWell attended the fifth annual Microsoft conference in London. This year’s Future Decoded Conference was all about the power and possibility of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This blog will explain a little bit about what we learned and give you some insights into the power of AI.

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence is the age-old aspiration to create a machine with the cognitive functions of the human brain. AI has been around for decades, and you probably didn’t know this, but you’re already using it. From Amazon recommending movies for you to watch to your outlook calendars syncing automatically, AI is already benefiting you in your everyday life.

How does it work?

AI is different to coding. In coding, a set of instructions is inputted into the machine, which the computer then follows. With AI, the machine is taught a rule, and then it trains itself with data. It truly is futuristic.

So why now?

AI has been around since Alan Turing invented the Enigma Machine at Bletchley Park in World War II. Even back then, AI hugely transformed humanity, and Turing’s machine enabled Britain to crack intercepted code messages from the Nazis, which essentially won the Allies the war.

But now, as Microsoft repeatedly drummed home throughout the two-day conference, is the time that AI is really going to grow exponentially.

We’re now in the era of the software revolution, and this is due to 3 key things.

1 – Big Data. We live in an age in which the amount of data existing in the world is incomprehensible. 90% of the data in the world was generated in the last two years. And it’s not that shocking considering every minute, 16 million text messages are sent. Data is arriving in greater volumes and at greater speeds that ever. Even as you’re reading this, the latest stats on the amount of data existing is outdated by a factor of hundreds. This aggressive increase in the volume of data generated is paving the way for AI development.

2 – Massive Computing Power. The adoption of Cloud hosting means that computers can manage and work with bigger amounts of information with greater ease than ever before.

3 – Powerful Algorithms. The creation of algorithms that enable machine learning has given rise to this whole new possibility for Artificial Intelligence. Combine this with Big Data and Massive Computing Power, and the real-life applications of AI are set to increase at an exponential rate.

The benefits of AI

The opportunities for AI are endless. And the power of AI is already being harnessed in every sector.

Artificial Intelligence is already aiding surgeons in medical procedures, and while it is still in its infancy, the application of AI in medicine is expected to be world-changing.

 

Even now, Microsoft is working in partnership with Adaptive Biotechnics. Using the power of AI, they are working towards using a single blood test to track the millions of antigens present in the body, and then to map these against various diseases. With AI, work that would take decades to produce is done in a matter of days. If successful, this project could go on to produce a cure for cancer. Incredible things are possible with AI.

But AI is not just beneficial to medicine. Businesses are using AI to enhance security, increase employee efficiency and hone their online ad effectiveness. Regardless of the sector, AI has the potential to transform every industry.  

The drawbacks of AI

Microsoft continually enforced this message throughout the conference: It’s not what we can do with AI, but what we should do with AI. The point being that you could hypothetically achieve anything with AI. But is it ethical?

Microsoft explained the possibility of job displacement, and how companies really need to consider the negative impacts AI could have within their organisation. While the opportunities for AI are incredible, there could be unintended negative impacts and companies need to take responsibility for this if they intend to use this new technology.  

The AI Opportunity Report

Microsoft, on the first day of the conference, released The AI Opportunity Report, which you can read here. It’s all about how companies who have embraced AI have benefited and how you can start to adopt AI in your company.

 

According to the report, 41% of business models for organisations will cease to exist in 5 years, thanks to the power of AI. Thus, it is important to get on board with this game-changing technology immediately, to ensure that your company doesn’t get left behind. You can read the full Microsoft report here.

Seamus Rae, the Head of Digital Disruption at KPMG, stressed that organisations really need to get behind AI. He iterated that we need to change the conversation surrounding AI from one of dystopian ideology to one of utopian ideology. As he explained, the New York Times publish an article in 1957 claiming that AI was going to destroy the world in a couple of decades. That obviously hasn’t happened. And yet, there’s still this huge negative cloud around the dangers of AI, and that’s something we need to change if we are going to harness the power of future technologies.

To sum up, the power of AI is incredible and it’s coming fast. Microsoft claims that this could be the most game-changing piece of technology ever developed, and that the real-world impacts of it are unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The point still remains though that it isn’t what we can do with Artificial Intelligence, but what we should do.