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Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is one of the most misunderstood technologies in all of industry. Like blockchain, the cloud and various other innovations that are long on hype and short on details, artificial intelligence’s biggest limitation is the fact almost nobody understands what it is or how it works. Further, most of the people who stand to benefit the most from its adoption frequently mistake it for other far less useful things.


In order to make use of a technology, especially in business, it is crucial that the early adopters not only understand what it is, but how it can be utilized to benefit their company. All the great advances and innovations in the world can’t help a company if there are no practical applications for them in day-to-day operations. If you are considering investigating AI as a potential tool for your company, you should start by not mistaking it for something else.


Not What You Think


AI is not a technology that answers questions. It asks questions. This is the fundamental disconnect between computers appearing to be advanced and impersonating intellect versus actually exhibiting intellect. Artificial intelligence must first have the ability to learn and to do so independently of any outside influence. Some might argue the ability to feed information into a computer has been available since the Difference Engine in the early 1800s. The first digital computer, called ENIAC, came along more than 120 years later. Nobody would argue either machine was intelligent. Therefore the simple ability to collect information from whatever source shouldn’t be a criteria for AI.


Business Applications


Most of what passes for AI now, especially in a business context, is simple pattern matching. Finding a pattern in a dataset is neither new nor advanced. In fact it is one of the most widespread functions in all technology. The Structured Query Language (SQL) and all the databases it powers use pattern matching on a nanosecond by nanosecond basis all over the world.


To incorporate true AI into a business application, the computer would observe and experiment with the data on its own. Like a chess-playing machine, it will perform all the possible calculations and then sort them by effectiveness. This is where a business will find its first application for AI: By setting the rules that describe success. This is the key reason considering AI for your business is so valuable.


Teaching Your Own Company


It has long been said the fastest path to understanding a subject is to teach it. With AI as your student, you will be placed in a position where you will have to set the conditions for success. This will force you to consider things about your business you may not have thought about before. Even if you end up not using AI in your operations, by performing this basic task you will have given yourself a crucial advantage. Most of your competition will likely not have given the subject the same thought.


That alone is worth the effort.