Artificial Intelligence (AI) conjures up visions of robots that can mix dry martinis while beating a grand master at chess; and to some, will one day be able to look, act, think and react just like a real person. I would like to explore the concept of AI as it relates to the business world, and its possible many other applications. I believe that true AI is a dream worth pursuing. Like me, there are many who, just like those of the early 1960's, thought that putting a man on the moon seemed to be an extremely difficult, but not an impossible task, believing the achievement of true AI to come is just a matter of time. To remain competitive, companies must continue to improve by doing better and doing more; all the while using fewer and fewer resources, especially, manpower. Greater numbers of the world's companies are turning to systems, which they feel offer the best means of attaining these goals. A group, or suite of tools that can help accomplish this pursuit of doing less with more is generally known as Decision Support Systems. This broad category usually consists of computer software and hardware, which includes Intelligent Decision Support Systems, Expert Systems and Artificial Intelligence. Do these systems really provide a valuable contribution to those who use them, and just how much faith can be put into them? Strategic decision making concerns itself with determining where and how to deploy present resources to gain competitive advantages with the expectation of achieving some future reward. This simple, but powerful idea, permeates the planning process of large and small companies. Decisions related to how resources should be deployed consider specific measures necessary to compete effectively and efficiently; while strategic decisions are made with the expectation of improving future corporate profitability. Decision support systems are important additions in developing long term strategic plans, and thus long range profitability measures. Definition ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE Before we can explore the possibilities and implications of AI, we must carefully define exactly what attributes make something "intelligent". The most common way to define intelligence in through the term "consciousness". A term such as this has no fixed definition; rather, it is a family of related concepts that tie together to form a picture of consciousness. Self-awareness, rationality, the ability for abstract thinking, and strategic thinking characterize consciousness. From this definition or description of intelligence we can gather that to exhibit true intelligence, there must be a conscious state, in other words, a state or condition of self-awareness. AI is broadly defined as anything that a computer does that we normally consider to be a human trait. AI is the part of computer science concerned with designing intelligent computer systems, that is systems that exhibit the characteristics we associate with intelligence in human behaviorunderstanding language, learning, reasoning, solving problems and so on. Today's AI sprung from the discipline commonly referred to Decision Support Systems, and as such, a true look at AI can not be conducted without first taking a look at its predecessors. Why Have Decision Support Systems Decision Support Systems provide a valuable data repository of lessons learned. By maintaining this data and providing real time updates, managers can help support their business choices by looking at a history of similar decisions made by others in their positions. This does not mean that every decision made, based on this data, will be good. However, it does help lower the probability of a bad one. This function alone can save a company from making a small error to making errors, which could threaten its ability to remain viable. What types of Decision Support Systems are there? Before we can understand the ramifications of these systems we must first explore the types and some of...
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