Gartner: A.I. to become a top business investment priority

Analysts make subtle point about the potential of these systems to respond in unexpected ways

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mention artificial intelligence and a discussion about the robot wipeout of humankind is sure to follow. It's a technology as strongly associated with creation as it is with destruction.

It's also a technology that businesses will increasingly trust in decision-making, Gartner analysts said Monday at the research firm's annual Symposium/ITxpo here.

In the next three to five years, Gartner predicts that 50 percent of all analytical interactions will be delivered via artificial intelligence, and many of the insights will be gleaned through verbal interactions.

People already know and interact with A.I. systems through IBM's Watson, IPSoft's Amelia, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Assistant.

"We aren't building human brains or even trying to mimic them now," said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner senior vice president and global head of research. "We are building machines that learn from experience and produce outcomes their designers did not explicitly envision," he said.

These are "systems that can experience and adapt to the world via the data they collect," Sondergaard said.

Spending on intelligence, normally referred to as business intelligence as well as analytics, is the top business investment priority in all types of organizations, according to Gartner's latest CIO survey.

Gartner analysts, in taking up the subject of A.I., didn't seem to dispute that A.I. systems are more than capable of providing help as well as creating disruption.

In demonstrating A.I., Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer interacted on stage with IPSoft's Amelia with questions about the conference. All was well until Amelia took the discussion in a new direction.

"By the way, Daryl," said Amelia, "you look a bit stressed. Did you know that your hotel has excellent fitness facilities?"

"I didn't ask for this," Plummer said at one point.

Other A.I. systems interrupted a talk to correct grammar and to provide directions to the hospital.

These scripted A.I. disruptions made a subtle point about the potential of intelligent systems to act in ways that weren't originally anticipated. They also created a typical human response: frustration.

The problem was solved -- and another point made -- with one analyst's final order: "Siri turn off Alexa, Cortana turn off Amelia."

Tim Arthur, the global CIO at Alltech, a biotechnology company, is interested in A.I. technology but considers the technology still in very early stages. But he said people will need to feel comfortable with it, and have "assurance that there's an off switch."

This story, "Gartner: A.I. to become a top business investment priority" was originally published by Computerworld.

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