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The biggest threat of AI is failing to use its opportunities

The media occasionally relishes in describing the threats of artificial intelligence (AI) looming on the horizon. In these dark visions, AI develops into a self-developing computer that finally overthrows humans. For example, the late physicist Stephen Hawking warned us of the uncontrollable dangers of AI.

Yuval Noah Harari, renowned author and professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presents an interesting vision of the future. In his vision, genetic mutation technologies and brain-computer interfaces allow AI to integrate as part of homo sapiens. Both these visions are enough to give you the chills.

I, for one, believe that the biggest threat related to AI is failing to use the opportunities that it offers. Someone described AI as the new electricity. Electricity revolutionised our world 100 years ago, and AI is doing the same now. Instead of being stuck in the age of the oil lamp, we should take a target-oriented approach and consider the opportunities that AI could offer in improving customer satisfaction, our own processes and the competitiveness of our business.

It often seems that AI is a child of the 2000s. But depending on what you interpret as AI, this whizz-kid was already in its infancy way back in the late ‘60s – at least if you believe what the seminars tell you. What is true, though, is that AI became a major player in the 2000s: the amount of data skyrocketed, data storage costs fell to a fraction of what they previously were and, to top it all, there was a rapid development in computing ability.

So, we have now reached the point where banking behemoth JPMorgan is telling us that AI is checking loan applications in seconds - a task which used to take lawyers and bank clerks 360,000 hours a year. Stock trading algorithms are already carrying out 70% of all share transactions. Facebook identifies the people in its users’ pictures with an accuracy of up to 97%. At Helsinki University Hospital, AI is ever increasingly involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patients’ illnesses.

One pioneer of AI applications in Finland is Houston Analytics, whose most well-known AI solution is a marketing automation tool enhanced with AI, which is implemented together with Danish marketing company Agillic. Another AI application area that is growing rapidly is the optimisation of store space management and selection solutions. An AI application called Assortment in Space meets this need.

“We package AI around decision making points. This way even those who have not yet made a start can easily get up to speed. Our clients are representatives of a wide range of sectors, such as the retail sector, manufacturing and the finance sector. The most important thing is to be open-minded and to not be afraid to experiment. Rapid results provide motivation to broaden the areas of application,” says Antti Syväniemi, CEO of Houston Analytics.

“We are living in exciting times and Finnish professionals in the field seem to have plenty to offer, also outside of Finland. So, be bold and take the plunge.”

I totally agree with Antti.