Nate Nead is the CEO of DEV.co and SEO.co. Nate and his teams specialize in custom software development, web design and digital marketing.
Artificial intelligence (AI) conjures a lot of unique imagery depending on your background and how much exposure to the topic you’ve had. For some people, AI looks and feels like something out of The Terminator or 2001: A Space Odyssey — an oppressive, human-like intelligence that poses an existential threat. To some, AI is simply a fancy name for digital assistants like Siri or Cortana. Of course, if you have a lot of development experience, you know the line between AI and any other kind of computer programming is blurry and that in some ways, a basic pocket calculator could be considered AI.
But no matter what your initial conceptions are, we can all agree on one thing for sure — AI has incredible potential to transform our world and to increase productivity, improve efficiency and solve problems that have henceforth been considered unsolvable. But is your business ready for the impending AI explosion?
The Exponential Potential Of AI
Technology rarely develops in a linear way. Instead, our technological progress tends to leap forward in major spurts and increase exponentially in some contexts (think of, for example, Moore’s Law, which is used to predict innovations for semiconductors). Over a period of years, the entire business landscape can be transformed, multiplying productivity, opening the door to new market opportunities and pushing the limits of human potential.
I anticipate AI to follow a similar curve of development and radically transform almost every imaginable industry. Chatbots, autonomous vehicles, automated manual tasks and even high-level creative brainstorming are going to collectively revolutionize how we do business. More to the point, it’s going to put tremendous pressure on businesses to adapt to the new demands for AI or else perish in the process.
Delayed Business Reactions
In some ways, the AI revolution is already here. AI research continues to get large amounts of funding, and entrepreneurs all over the world are taking this technology seriously. We’re seeing the development and rollout of technologies like self-driving cars and AI-based journalism, and our best machines can even accomplish strategic feats that were once thought impossible like when AlphaGo beat a human professional Go player for the first time in 2015.
So why aren’t we seeing more businesses take advantage of this profound technological leap forward? According to one recent report, fewer than 10% of U.S. companies are using AI-based technologies, and just 2.8% of companies are actively using machine learning.
Why is this the case?
Part of the problem is available resources and competition. Right now, AI is expensive and hard to implement, especially considering the shortage of AI developers in the U.S. That’s part of the reason why most of the companies adopting AI-based solutions are large, established firms (rather than small businesses with limited budgets and resources).
Technology adoption is also typically slow to start. The first email was sent in 1971, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that email became a widespread and mainstream form of communication.
AI is also in the midst of what we could call a “discovery phase.” AI progress is in its infancy, and we haven’t yet scratched the surface of its full potential. But make no mistake — once AI begins to take hold and become more popular, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle until you also adapt.
Steps To Take Now
If you don’t want your business to fall behind in the wave of AI adoption, there are several important steps I believe you should take now:
• Consider investing in AI. If you have the talent, the time or the resources, start investing in custom AI solutions now. The sooner you start, the further and faster you’re going to advance.
• Study your competition (and keep a close watch). Start paying close attention to the technologies utilized by your competitors. How are they using AI and machine learning? Do they have plans for the future?
• Upgrade your current technology. Upgrade your current tech solutions as you can. Oftentimes, incorporating AI into existing platforms can multiply their effectiveness.
• Prioritize flexibility and agility. Make sure your business remains as flexible and agile as possible. You’ll need to make room for new solutions and new processes, and you need to be unafraid to abandon the established infrastructure of the past.
In a few years, or at most, a few decades, AI and machine learning are going to be as commonplace as email and internet connections are today. The only way to ensure your business’s survival is to keep pace with your competition or, preferentially, surpass them.