At Narrative Science, we love making predictions about innovation, technology and, in particular, the rise of artificial intelligence. We may be a bit too optimistic about the timing of certain technologies going mainstream, but we can’t help it. We are wildly optimistic about the future and genuinely believe that we have entered a dramatically new era of artificial intelligence innovation. That said, this year, we tried to focus our predictions on the near-term. Here’s our best guess as to what will happen in 2016.
1. New inventions using AI will explode.
In 2015, artificial intelligence went mainstream. Major tech companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter made huge investments in AI, almost all of technology research company Gartner’s strategic predictions included AI, and headlines declared that AI-driven technologies were the next big disruptor to enterprise software. In addition, companies that made huge strides in AI, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google, open-sourced their tools. This makes it likely that in 2016, new inventions will increasingly come to market from companies discovering new ways to apply AI versus building it. With entrepreneurs now having access to low-cost quality AI technologies to create new products, we’ll also likely see an explosion in new startups using AI.
2. Employees will work alongside smart machines.
Smart machines will augment work and help employees be more productive, not replace them. Analytics industry leader, Tom Davenport, stated it well when he predicted that “smart leaders will realize that augmentation—combining smart humans with smart machines—is a better strategy than automation.”
3. Executives will demand transparency.
Business leaders will realize that smart machines throwing out answers without explanation are of little use. If you walked into a CEO’s office and said we need to shut down three factories, the first question from the CEO would be: “Why?” Just producing a result isn’t enough, and communication capabilities will increasingly be built into advanced analytics and intelligent systems so that these systems can explain how they are arriving at their answers.
4. Artificial Intelligence will reshape companies outside of IT.
AI-powered business applications will start to infiltrate companies other than technology firms. Employees, teams and entire departments will champion process re-engineering efforts with these intelligent systems whether they realize it or not. As each individual app eliminates a task, employees will automate many of the mundane parts of their jobs and assemble their own stack of AI-powered apps. Teammates eager to be productive and stay competitive will follow, along with team managers who are looking to execute on cost-cutting efforts.
5. Innovation labs will become a competitive asset.
With the pace of innovation accelerating, large organizations in industries such as retail, insurance and government will focus even more energies on remaining competitive and discovering the next big thing by forming innovation labs. Innovation labs have existed for some time, but in 2016, we’ll begin to see more resources devoted to innovation labs and more technologies discovered in the labs actually implemented across different company functions and business lines.
2016 will be a big year for AI. Much of the work in AI in 2016 will be the catalyst for rapid acceleration of the development and adoption of AI-powered applications. In addition and perhaps even more significant, 2016 will bring about a major shift in the perception of AI. It will cease to be a scary, abstract set of ideas and concepts and will be better understood and accepted as more people realize the potential of AI to augment what we do and make our lives more productive.