“I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.” –Stephen Hawking
With all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, it’s tempting to run for the hills and hide from the coming dystopian reality predicted by the movie Terminator. Hollywood loaded the term to spark our imagination and marketers have (as marketers will) commandeered it to grab our attention. To further complicate matters, the definition of AI itself is not set in stone. As machines become more capable, tasks formerly considered “intelligent” get taken for granted and are excluded from the definition, and with so many related fields (machine learning, predictive analytics, artificial consciousness) the lines are often blurred.
What AI is and is not
When thinking of AI, I find it helpful to start with what it is not. First off, AI does not require self-awareness; that falls under the field of artificial consciousness (the realm of Skynet, the Matrix and other human-replacing technologies). We are also not talking about machines capable of passing the Turing test (behavior indistinguishable from a human). Finally, there is a continuum of intelligence—going from earthworm to Einstein. Let’s just say we’re nowhere near genius AI.
Today’s AI is about learning and problem solving. It is “a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation.” Not so scary.
AI impacts every aspect of our lives. In the network and communications realm, a frequently cited application in use today are chatbots. Algorithms tied to big data platforms to engage customers with actionable insights and the ability to resolve complex troubles in real time by simply chatting with a bot. In fact, WE Connect, our customer portal, already has such a resident bot today.
A preponderance of productivity apps leverage AI in areas ranging from making predictions about user preferences, to prioritizing tasks and making workloads more manageable and predictable. Integrating unified communications to apps like Alexa, Slack and Teams enables their users to further leverage the productivity-enhancing AI that has made these tools so popular (and, yes, we’ve done that too).
AI predictions and the network
The types of predictions AI provides in the app world today will soon enable intent‑based network traffic routing and prioritization. Historical patterns, trends and events correlated to model traffic routes that take the aggregate effect of expected individual user behaviors into account. Imagine also IT managers automatically ordering (i.e. approving) greater network capacity based on algorithmic forecasts of new peak utilization. In the event the unavoidable outage happens, diagnosing and repairing even the most intermittent of issues is within our grasp. And, it’s not hard to envision auto‑configuring threat management settings and priority queues based on user behavior.
Will AI eventually lead to mass unemployment and, ultimately, our demise? Perhaps someday. However, today’s AI is a productivity-enhancing tool making our lives and the ways we communicate easier. So, in the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy AI’s many benefits and hope it never achieves Mr. Hawking’s dire prediction.
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