Is artificial intelligence (AI) in human society a utopian dream or (worse yet) a Faustian nightmare?" (qtd in Kurzweil 450).
Opponents to AI would like members of society to believe the answer to this question is yes. For these skeptics, AI either "conjures up images of HAL in the film '2001: A Space Odyssey' or . . . the scarecrow in the 'Wizard of Oz'" (qtd in Kupsh and Rhodes 344). Both cases illustrate the presence of intelligence where a brain is lacking. In the former AI is seen as a threat, and in the latter AI is seen as a fantasy. What many skeptics do not realize is that both business and society are already profiting from the use of AI. My goal is to better inform you, my reader, so that you will understand that AI is neither a threat nor a fantasy. Rather, it is a reality which continues to enhance our quality of life. Before I do that, however, it is important for you to understand what AI is. I will, therefore, begin with a general definition of artificial intelligence, then break it down into three categories to examine its impact on business and society.
Definition of Artificial Intelligence
Put quite simply, artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer to imitate the process of thinking. This means that in addition to data processing and number crunching, it deals with "knowledge processing." In other words, intelligent computers are able to interpret information and respond in an appropriate way. This capability of a computer is fully dependent upon its intelligent software, thus, the equipment can do only what humans allow. To date, three major applications of AI exist, and I classify them as follows: expert systems and neural networks, natural language processing, and robotics and perception. These categories represent the major ways in which intelligent computers can respond to information. The next three sections of this paper will focus individually on these categories by first describing the area of AI being discussed then citing real world examples that demonstrate exact ways in which it is positively impacting business and society.
Expert Systems and Neural Networks
In business, expert systems and neural networks are the most prevalent component of AI. In fact, it is predicted that by the year 2000 expert systems, the better known of the two, will be "as widespread as computer spreadsheet programs and data-base management systems are today" (Kurzweil 15). The task of both types of machines is to interpret data to make routine managerial decisions that are often very time-consuming for individuals to make. The two systems do so in the same way as management would itself. The main difference is the way in which each one approaches the decision-making process. Expert systems are computers programmed to emulate the decision-making process of one or more experts. This emulation includes the experts' rule-based decision-making process and intuitive "rules of thumb" reasoning. Neural networks, on the other hand, are programmed to learn by example. Through analyzing numerous representative examples, they are able to mimic any decision-making process. Currently, both systems are used in business to make narrowly-defined decisions. Programs are highly specialized to each system due to the fact that no one decision-making process can be used in every situation. To help expand this problem-solving base, a new trend emerging is to apply a combination expert system/neural network (known as an expert network). I will describe example uses of each one of these.
Practically any type of business can increase productivity and enhance products and services to customers by using an expert system. For any problem in which an experienced consultant in the area would be of help, an expert system could be developed and put to use (Kupsh and Rhodes 351). Two exemplary examples of this are found at PMI mortgage company of San Francisco and Chemical Bank in...
Bibliography: "Explaining the Experts." Byte Oct. 1991: 111.
Kurzweil, Raymond. The Age of Intelligent Machines Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1990.
April 23, 1993
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