Toronto’s tech scene is booming. It is North America’s third-largest tech hub, with about 290,000 tech workers, trailing only Silicon Valley with 379,000 and New York City with 344,500, according to CBRE, a real-estate company that tracks hiring. There’s a lot of information out there about AI, though it’s hard to distinguish between fact and science fiction. You may be surprised to learn that AI can be found in everything, from advanced robotics to the voice search function on your smartphone. Let’s examine what artificial intelligence is, and the most common places you’ll find it.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Artificial Intelligence (AI), also known as machine intelligence, is a branch of computer science that focuses on building and managing technology that can learn to autonomously make decisions and carry out actions on behalf of a human being. Created for the purpose of mimicking human thinking and decision-making processes, these programs can often revise their own algorithms. They analyze data sets and improve their own performance without needing the help of a human. They are often programmed to complete tasks that are too complex for non-AI machines.

The history of AI

The concept of modern AI started as far back as the early 1900s. By the 1950s, AI research took off. But even the pioneers of those early AI studies had no idea how quickly it would develop. Especially in the 1980s and onward, AI research took enormous steps forward, hitting landmarks that experts didn’t think were possible to hit within the next hundred years.

Everyday examples of Artificial Intelligence

Many of us might be shocked how pervasive AI is in our everyday lives already. According to one survey of 6,000 consumers, while only 33% of people think that they use AI, over 77% use an AI-powered service or device. Researchers have been making strides in the development of AI that they didn’t expect to make for several decades. The American interactive data visualization software company, Tableau, cites a myriad of examples of common AI applications:

Digital assistants 

If you have a smartphone or laptop, you probably have (and use) digital assistant software to some degree:

  • Siri (Apple)
  • Alexa (Amazon)
  • Cortana (Microsoft)
  • Google Assistant (Google)
  • Bixby (Samsung)
  • National Language Processor or NLP (ChatGPT)

Search engines

Search engine algorithms utilize AI to refine and show better results. AI can generate related questions to your initial search, and they can see it with auto-complete answers when you type in the search bar. An AI algorithm gathers data on what people search most often and uses that to populate predictions you can use to navigate:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo

Social media

All major social media platforms run off AI-powered algorithms, which are mostly designed to determine what their users like, and serve more of that content. Many also run artificial intelligence algorithms to gather and store user data to use for advertising purposes, including:

  • Facebook (Meta)
  • Instagram (Meta)
  • YouTube
  • TikTok

Online shopping

Many online shopping and e-commerce platforms use AI to streamline their customer experience in a variety of ways. As a customer, you may experience AI through:

  • Personalized product recommendations based on previous shopping activity or customer profile
  • Pricing optimization based on supply, demand, or previous shopping activity
  • Chatbots to provide instant responses to customer service or technical issues
  • Shipping and delay estimates

Robots

Though these may seem futuristic or even far-fetched, in reality, many robots already exist in our world. You may even own some, or something produced by one. Robots are used to streamline production or keep workers safe. They handle repetitive tasks or anything deemed too dangerous or tedious for a human worker. Examples of robot-utilized industries include:

  • Aerospace
  • Manufacturing
  • Hospitality
  • Cleaning

Transportation and navigation

Most major map software uses some kind of AI to interpret real-time traffic data and provide routes and ETAs. Additionally, many aircraft use an AI-powered autopilot that takes in weather conditions and flight data to set the course. Other examples of AI in transportation and navigation include:

  • Traffic management systems (predicts heavier traffic flows and congestion)
  • Direction apps (Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze)
  • Rideshare apps (like Uber and Lyft, that predict road conditions, and set fare rates)

Healthcare

From robotics in hospitals and clinics to predictive software used to diagnose rare diseases, AI has many uses in the field of healthcare:

  • Early diagnosis: AI can analyze patient and disease data to predict the likelihood of a patient developing a disease and either diagnose it early or help to prevent it entirely.
  • Disease tracking: Using predictive analytics, AI can model how a contagious disease can spread over the course of time or across a specific area.
  • Drug discovery: AI models can discover new applications or potentially harmful interactions between different drugs.

Other common AI uses:

  • Text editing and autocorrect – (Smartphones/Grammarly)
  • Fraud prevention – (analyzes thousands of transactions, and recognizes normal patterns so they can flag suspicious activity)
  • Predictions – (process large amounts of data all at once to identify patterns to make predictions)
  • Gaming – (Minecraft / F.E.A.R. / The Land of Us)
  • Analytics – (data science and predictive analytics)

Can Artificial Intelligence be dangerous?

As with most things to do with AI, the answer to this question is complicated. There are some risks associated with AI; some pragmatic and some ethical. The importance of AI safety is to keep humans safe and to ensure that proper regulations are in place to ensure that AI acts as it should. These issues may not seem immediate, but addressing them now can prevent much worse outcomes in the future.

For a comprehensive breakdown of both the advantages and disadvantages to AI for your business, please click here.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

We are at a crucial stage in the development of AI; it has become so popular so fast, but the regulations and legal requirements haven’t yet caught up. The potential benefits of continuing forward with AI research are significant. And while, of course, there are risks to consider, the reward may be considered well worth it. Billions of dollars are still being poured into AI research, while consumers continue to interact with artificial intelligence in some form every day. It’s important for businesses to understand the benefits and risks in using AI, in order to move forward. Whether you’re looking forward to the time of self-driving cars or robots to clean your home, Artificial Intelligence may still seem like science fiction to many. But for those in the know, the future is now.

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