This article originally appeared on Medium.com.
Artificial intelligence — two words that are mentioned so often today they are almost overused.
They sound futuristic. As if the age when such technology will become an integral part of our lives is yet to come.
Little do we realize that this time we imagine to be sometime in the future has already arrived and is here right now. A term that sounds so obscure at first sight, it is, in fact, already having a major impact on our lives day to day, even if we might not even fully recognize it yet.
In reality, the reason AI sounds so outlandish is simply because people don’t fully comprehend what the technology represents and what it’s capable of; in short, there is this cloud of miscommunication and lack of understanding that enshrouds this seemingly loaded but inherently simple innovation.
Artificial intelligence, in essence, is the kind of technology that operates quite similarly to the human brain — except for the fact that it’s infinitely faster in processing information. Artificial intelligence, and specifically machine learning, has a unique ability to learn and develop like our brains; the logic behind such technology is rooted in its ability to identify repeating patterns, analyzing them, and using this analysis to make educated predictions of future occurrences.
Think about it: imagine you move in with your significant other; with time, you learn so many idiosyncrasies about their behavior and preferences, such as, for example, their favorite Italian restaurant in the neighborhood or preferred route to work that goes through the nearby park. Now, imagine that knowing all of this and being able to recognize these properties about them over time and through repetition, you decide to plan a special evening for the birthday.
What would you do?
You would most likely account for these small differentiators that make them stand out and plan a day that you believe they will enjoy based on the predilections they have shown so far. You may choose their favorite (or a new, highly rated!) Italian restaurant for a romantic dinner, since they like Italian food; or plan a romantic candle-lit walk through a park because they enjoy scenic routes. And all these would be thoughtful, fairly accurate and substantiated predictions based on the information you have collected and carefully analyzed over the time you have spent together.
Now, in reality, this sort of a simple and obvious scenario is exactly the reasoning behind how Artificial Intelligence operates — at a much faster speed.
Simple, isn’t it? More than that, it’s also everywhere. Already.
Thanks to its ability to learn and evolve, AI has the capability to be seamlessly integrated into (quite literally) any aspect of our life, in many ways simplifying things and improving the quality of our lives. And it already has been of significant help in how we live and perceive the world day to day.
Think about the virtual assistants that have become our friends and companions, that tell us what the weather is like outside and play our favorite playlists per our request. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant — they all operate based on artificial intelligence algorithms. They are exactly what they are named for — assistants in our day-to-day lives, taking on simple tasks and in many ways helping us by making our lives easier and more efficient.
With Siri or Alexa being among the most obvious assistants, there are also AI technologies that take this notion of assistance a step further and help us be more productive and focused. Take, for example, x.ai. An AI assistant that has the power of Natural Language Processing, this kind of an AI solution can manage personal calendars and schedule meetings based on email correspondence, thus acting like a secretary and taking care of administrative manners while the user focuses on more important tasks. X.ai identifies meeting dates and times in email correspondence and automatically schedules those in the user’s calendar — all while saving the user the effort of trying to find an appropriate time, coordinating and inputting events manually — a waste time instead of which they could actually be preparing for these important meetings.
Or think of the modern consumer experiences. Online or offline, AI has made the consumer journey from product awareness, exploration, selection and purchase much faster and easier — all thanks to the fact that it helps companies and brands understand our individual tastes better and cater to our unique preferences through customization and strategic targeting. Ever noticed how Amazon can accurately predict that we would need coffee pods because we just purchased a coffee machine with them? Credits to their AI technology that gets to know us better with each purchase. And if an online store offers the buyers “items they might like” during shopping, it’s because the products the website offers stylistically match the previous items the consumer explored. Which explains why Banana Republic might offer that white shirt with the navy blazer.
AI is hiding in plain sight in the social media platforms we can’t imagine our daily lives about. Thinking back to our Instagram and Facebook feeds, we all can find content on the topics we enjoy — be it politics, travel, pottery, or sports. From the dat we create our Instagram accounts, the Explore page gradually develops into the reflection of our (ever-changing) interests and preferences: a corgi lover would get engaging corgi videos, while a designer would have a carefully curated design inspiration page. Facebook doesn’t fall far behind on AI applications either: with facial recognition applications, the social media platform can easily identify people’s facial features and suggest tagging options based on the visual analysis of the user’s friends and visual content.
What is the moral of the story, then?
The truth is, very often, the future isn’t as far ahead as we imagine it to be — in fact, it may very well be there the whole time, under our noses, so highly integrated that we fail to notice it. And this is the case with Artificial Intelligence being our silent, invisible companion that isn’t noticed very often, but nevertheless helps improve our daily lives and has a massive positive impact without us even realizing it.
So next time, when we dictate a message for Siri to send or follow the fashion “advice” of our favorite online shopping websites, let’s take a second to fully comprehend how real — and ubiquitous — AI’s presence is in our lives.
And how far we can still go with such an empowering, liberating and revolutionary technology.