The disruption and promise of artificial intelligence

A.I. is now maturing to the point where it can be highly effective.

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There’s no shortage of books, news articles and comments in social media about how artificial intelligence (A.I.) is shaping our future. Although it’s still blazing a trail, we’re on the brink of A.I. disruption that will change all industries and society at a very deep and fundamental level. I believe it will be one of the next great wealth generators.

My optimism about A.I.’s growing potential arises from many successful use case examples as clear evidence that A.I. is now getting the scale, maturity and the ecosystem in which it can be effective. Although A.I. has been developing for 20 to 30 years, it’s gaining enough elements necessary for a supporting ecosystem.

Individuals active in the A.I. space discussed some use cases at a recent dinner I attended at the United Nations. Government entities, distinguished academics and journalists, and the leaders in AI at companies such as Facebook, Google, IBM Watson, Intel and IPSoft attended. We talked, for instance, about how A.I. affects drilling for oil and how it helps provide medicine to the under-served.

A particularly interesting case involves a special condition affecting about 120,000 people in the U.S. when they have a stroke. Currently, it is diagnosed in only 4,000 of 120,000 lives. Paralysis is the result if doctors can’t diagnose the condition and treat it appropriately. The condition is largely not caught because healthcare providers lack the ability to diagnose the condition and treat it in the golden four-hour period after a stroke happens. An A.I. engine can quickly process the hundred or so MRI images and easily diagnose the condition, saving lives across the country.

It’s clear that A.I. is a very powerful vehicle even though it is still in its nascent stage. The optimism shared by company A.I. users and governments at the meeting was very encouraging.

Impact on productivity

Over time, there is almost no endeavor that humans undertake that A.I. doesn’t stand to augment, thus making humans more effective and more productive. In doing so, artificial intelligence answers the dilemma we’ve had for the last 20 years: a lack of productivity in the U.S. Our productivity growth has not been increasing. In fact, our productivity rate has fallen over the last 20 years and is now measured as 1 percent or less.

Productivity is the largest determinant of real wage gains. If we’re going to increase wealth, particularly in a sustainable and more balanced way, A.I. stands as a very important tool to dramatically increase broad productivity across almost every human endeavor.

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