The growth in noise about artificial intelligence has bordered on deafening in some circles lately. All of the talk about self-driving cars and predictive analytics make sense at a very high level, but it still seems pretty Buck Rogers at this point, fake robots and all.
And there was even a recent article in The New York Times by Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Lohr about the failed promises of one of the biggest categories of artificial intelligence, Deep Learning. If you yourself don’t have a deep conversational knowledge of AI, this YouTube video about AI for People in a Hurry is very good, and short.
So today I was very pleased that none other than Steve Lohr did this piece today – getting to the fact that some of the biggest impacts AI is having today are not as sexy (not his word) as deep learning, but they are having very real impact in business. What he calls “robotic process automation.”
A couple of key messages from the piece that should help make AI much more appealing to those of us not wearing Buck Rogers’ clothing:
- This Basic AI is Not About Eliminating Jobs. There are many daily tasks that drive people crazy because they are so repetitive – but necessary. Companies are paying their employees whatever their hourly rate is $10, $15, $25/hour to do these tasks when there is plenty of more interesting work to do. And some of these tasks that drive people crazy make them want to look for other jobs. So if you can get a bot, or some software that costs less than the $10/hour (or whatever it is) for the number of employees you have, it’s pretty simple math for the return on investment – and the inevitable lowered churn/attrition in the workforce also saves time, money, and emotion. Companies like ActiveWords – replaces highly repetitive keystrokes do deliver greater office efficiency, and CareCru, offering “Donna” the world’s first virtual office assistant in dentistry (at much less than $10/hour) is already automating those repetitive tasks that drive the front office in dentistry crazy, they are also helping the dentists and hygienists model treatment plans for better overall patient health.
- This helps on both sides of the equation. Obviously, these things help with office productivity and profits, but it also helps the customer. Lohr’s article talks about the tasks that drive people “crazy” – some of those tasks drive customers / patients crazy as well. By automating some of these tasks even with a little bit of additional intelligence, like sending dental reminders just to the head of the household instead of all of the little kids – Mom and Dad don’t want a separate call, or e-mail, or text for every single kid in their house, plus their own, and that’s here. CareCru’s Donna, mentioned above, is a shining example of that.
The article does quote my friend Tom Davenport, who adds “This is the least intelligent form of A.I.” – and I think he’s right – but if there is clear value to customers and patients and the business, the least intelligent may not be 25th century stuff, a la Buck Rogers, but it still sounds pretty intelligent for us here in the 21st century.
*Note – I know both of the teams at CareCru and Activewords very well – so feel free to contact me if you need more information.