If you doubt artificial intelligence is bringing a tsunami of change to a wide array of industries, business functions, and consumer experiences, this piece of intelligence should set you straight: “Amplifying Human Potential Towards Purposeful Artificial Intelligence” was released by the global technology services and consulting firm Infosys this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The report points to a high level of activity in large global organizations to adopt and implement AI technologies. There are implications for marketers that should get your competitive juices flowing.
The report includes input from 1,600 senior business decision-makers at large global organizations. Along with myriad goals for using AI for various business functions, 97% of respondents point to improving customer benefits, including: the creation of new products, services and business models (55%) and giving faster access to existing ones (55%). In a world where customer demands become ever more instant and specific, 50% of respondents believe that AI can help them resolve problems more quickly, while 42% said AI can increase personalization.
For companies that are aggressively pushing ahead their AI strategies, the study shows a direct link to accelerated revenues. These early adopters say experimentation is showing “hugely positive results”: AI is delivering on its promise. By 2020, these companies expect AI to contribute, on average, revenue increases of 39% while reducing costs 37%. That is transformative value creation, with disruptive potential for early adopters.
The study also punctuates the fast pace of AI adoption. While just 9% of companies surveyed are deemed “Visionaries,” meaning they are already successfully deploying AI throughout their businesses and reaping the benefits, 21% are “Rising Stars” well along the path. The largest group is “Explorers,” at 38%, which consists of companies actively experimenting and expanding AI in the coming 12 months. Only a small minority of companies (12%) have no plans for AI.
The digital transformation we have all experienced over the last two decades leaves little doubt that AI will bring sweeping change -- it’s déjà vu all over again. But few realize how quickly this is happening. If you were thinking we will see the same cycle of fits and starts in the adoption of AI as with the dot-com boom and bust, don’t be surprised if we skip the bust.
Remember how, in the early days of the Internet, we started out with dial-up modems and digital user experiences that could only be defined as slow and crappy? It’s no wonder the industry went backward for a while after the initial market hype.
The difference between then and now is that the connectivity infrastructure as well as the vast data sources needed to implement AI solutions are already in place -- and AI is ready to exploit that infrastructure, after continuously developing beneath the surface for decades. Software development is beyond the point of experimentation. Innovation in hardware graphical processing units from companies such as NVIDIA has completely changed the game in terms of available processing power and speed that can now be achieved on computing platforms -- in some cases, bringing 10X the speed that was possible before. This higher level of power, which is needed for the kind of data crunching that AI requires, is only recently attainable and affordable -- and, when applied, delivers results that cannot be ignored.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil famously predicted that technology evolves at an exponential rate, theorizing that progress equivalent to the entire 20th century happened between 2000 and 2014 and another 20th century’s worth of progress will happen by 2021, in only seven years. A few decades later, a 20th century’s worth of progress will happen multiple times in the same year, and even later, in less than one month, he says. Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century.
If Kurzweil is right, AI transformation will happen twice as fast as the first wave of digital transformation, or faster. AI is in the fast lane, which means marketers will need to step on the gas pedal.