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It’s no joke that Artificial Intelligence is turning the technology industry (and others besides) on its ear. The latest advances in AI are regularly making headlines and either inspiring thoughtful dialogue or dramatic entertainment. This truly is the stuff of science fiction. But there are also a lot of misconceptions, requiring much-needed myth-busting around the topic. We recently spoke with AI aficionado (and author of Disruptive Marketing) Geoff Colon for some clarification on the subject.

Common AI Myths

For as long as humans have been designing machines, there has been concern over what would happen if those machines started to out-think their makers. Common myths around the discipline of artificial intelligence include a focus on making machines that replicate the human brain, that won’t be bound by human ethics or physical limitations, and that will inevitably spin out of control. These misconceptions stem from a tendency to sensationalize the technology and most often a misunderstanding of the types and purposes of AI technology. In fact, the most used forms of AI today are used primarily (70%) to check the weather.

Geoff Colon explains that there are really three different types of artificial intelligence and that breaking them down will help us all understand the discipline beyond the portrayal we see in the movies.

The Three Types of Artificial Intelligence

Type 1: Strong AI

Described by philosopher and academic John Searle of U.C. Berkley in the early 80s, Strong AI is the type that is popular in movies and science fiction. It is the ability to build a machine that has a mind in the same sense that human beings have minds and that the correct simulation is a real mind as opposed to just a simulation. Geoff says that the big problem with this is that we still don’t fully understand the inner workings of the human brain. If something like this were to be built today, he says that computer scientists would imagine such an artificial mind to be much simpler and closer to the level of an ant.

Type 2: Applied AI

Applied AI is the type of AI that is most commonly used today. It is the type of artificial intelligence found in virtual personal assistants (such as Cortana) that works by taking in information from prompts and former requests. Geoff describes it as very much an “if-this-then-that” type of thinking. We see a lot of applied AI in medical or financial software, which can take a lot of bit data and make it applicable to the user.

“This scares a lot of people because they think it might replace their field of work, but if it’s used in the right capacity I think it can actually do more to enhance those fields and make us all more effective.”

-Geoff Colon, Microsoft

Type 3: Cognitive Simulation

Cognitive Simulation is what we see a lot in facial recognition technology, or the ability for machine systems to understand based on imagery. This brand of AI is mainly symbolic and builds on cognitive science, operations research and management science to simulate the techniques that people use to solve problems. Geoff identifies the key issue of this type of artificial intelligence as the ability to make those machines understand context. This can mean the difference between understanding a symbol or face within a specific situation and miss-categorizing it completely.

AI in Action

Geoff has seen the impact of artificial intelligence most strongly in the knowledge economy industries. He says “This is where AI is most powerful because where it might take a team of 300 lawyers to dissect information, AI can do that in a matter of minutes or hours depending on the type of information you’re working with.” He sees AI making a profound difference in the legal profession, finance, and in the medical field, as well as his own field of marketing.

In product development, AI can take and composite customer feedback at a rapid pace to create better products and make sure that developers are building the products that customers want.

“The product development process is becoming a more collaborative experience between businesses and their customers with the help of AI. It can greatly speed development to market and enhance our capabilities on what we decide to build and not build here at Microsoft.”

-Geoff Colon, Microsoft

He recommends that partners pay attention to how AI changes the ways in which customers interact with information. “Because I think what might happen is that the questions we ask of our customers will be answered much more rapidly and pooled together more rapidly with the help of AI.” He believes that voice search is a particularly exciting area to explore as it is projected to increase from 5% of the market share to 50% by 2020. A lot of that is based on how we speak to our devices to search for information. Knowing how will your business will show up in voice search will be a key element to succeeding in an AI and mobile-saturated future.

How does your company plan to leverage the AI opportunity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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