From the creation of the Internet to the advent of big data and quantum computing, the pace of technological transformation in the last few decades is unprecedented. The gears of the machine that is innovation and scientific discovery keep on turning. Furthermore the world is witnessing some of the most profound changes in history.
And no one aspect of everyday life, academic field or economic activity is being left untouched. The way we manufacture, ship, market and use products—a chain of processes that spans a myriad of industries—is constantly evolving.
The ever increasing pace of technological transformation is powered by a set of key technologies. Spearheaded by Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI. AI is a field in computing that studies how the human brain functions and seeks to teach computers to “think” more like humans.
In traditional computing, a coder provides an input, output and logic, but with AI the machine only requires the input. It figures the rest of the equation by itself.
AI is not the future—it is very much the present. Machine learning, neural networks and deep learning are all techniques associated with AI. These are already disrupting every industry and sector of economic activity.
You probably use tech based on these techniques on a daily basis, even if you don’t know it. Netflix, Facebook and Amazon all rely on AI to deliver their services and improve the experience of their customers.
Algorithms based on AI are changing the face of e-commerce and retail by accurately predicting consumer behavior. Amazon, the world’s biggest e-commerce platform and the world most valuable brand, has been perfecting its own algorithm for quite some time. It has gotten pretty darn good—it knows what you want to buy even before you do, and can sell it to you with a personalized ad.
Chatbots, also known as Conversational AI, is another technology having a huge impact on the industry. The most advanced chatbots used in retail can already answer open-ended questions in a human-like way.
These chatbots have saved companies millions of dollars in salaries and have improved the customer experience immensely.
Other AI applications used in e-commerce are personalizing online interfaces, tailoring product recommendations and increasing the search relevance.
The marketing industry is in the midst of a renaissance. Marketeers have access to more data than even before on consumers’ tastes and preferences and a growing suite of tools to parse it.
The next generation of marketing instruments are being powered by deep learning, an AI technique based on the concept of letting systems teach themselves. Deep learning enables computers to perform high-level thought and abstraction, including image recognition.
The technique mimics how a human brain functions, using deep neural networks in which data is passed along. These networks adapt according to whatever data they are processing so that they can more efficiently process the next bit of data, based on the data that came before.
The technique has allowed professionals in the industry to improve ad personalization and conduct complex brand sentiment analysis. It is also behind applications like audience clustering and predictive marketing.
The Financial Industry
Financial technology, fintech for short, is changing the way we bank, make payments and even invest. Fintech is a loosely defined term that refers to a suite of technologies that have streamlined banking and facilitated financial operations.
As a result, banks are more connected than ever before. They are transferring money from one corner of the world to another has never been easier, faster or cheaper.
The way we pay has also changed dramatically. From credit cards—once the state-of-the-art payment technology—the industry moved on to online payments and online wallets. From there to mobile payments via smartphone apps and QR codes.
In 2018, Amazon launched the Go stores, bringing a whole new level of convenience to the shopping experience. This chain of stores are based on “Just walk out” or “cashierless” technology, allowing customers to pick up the items they need and then simply walk out the door.
Skipping the checkout entirely, shoppers are sent a receipt of their purchases through the Amazon Go app after leaving the store.
Even investing has been touched by AI. In 2009, Bob Goodson, the Director of Quid AI, was challenged to create a program that predicts which 50 companies would become successful startups.
Eight years later, Businessweek magazine reviewed the list to see the accuracy of Goodson’s software. The results surprised even the creator—Evernote, Spotify, Etsy, Zynga, Palantir, Cloudera and OPOWER were on the list! About 20 percent of the companies the computer chose were valued at a billion dollars.
AI is also revolutionizing the medical industry. Through AI, doctors can promptly diagnose serious conditions like cancer before it’s too late. Machine learning, an AI-technique to develop systems that learn and evolve based on experience, is now used for more accurate medical diagnosis.
The Chinese startup Infervision is using deep learning and image recognition to diagnose possible lung cancer with X-rays. China faces a real dearth of doctors, especially qualified radiologists. Which means radiologists wade through hundreds of scans each day to spot signs of cancer in their patients.
Infervision is using deep learning to help radiologists, by enabling them to diagnose cancer more accurately and efficiently than ever before.
About the author
Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech.