Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution - Hypergiant

Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution




Written by Ben Lamm, Founder and CEO of Hypergiant

If you live in the world of business and technology, “Artificial Intelligence” and “Machine Learning” are likely staples of your vocabulary. News stories, analyst reports, business case-studies and definitive guides clutter the internet. It’s caused one of tech’s greatest debates between two of the most revered tech titans, questioning AI’s impact on humanity and whether or not it’s actually an existential threat to people, their jobs, and the economy as a whole.

After years of over-hype, misconception, and unfulfilled promise, AI is finally starting to prove its value by helping people expand their skill sets, move up the corporate ladder, maximize productivity, and, in some cases, improve speed and accuracy of humans.

AI is no longer a nice-to-have in the workplace. It is quickly being proven as a necessary competitive advantage. How we leverage it, though, will determine its fate in business and in our day-to-day life.

It’s Not a Magic Bullet

The last two years have significantly pushed machine intelligence into the public domain. Nearly $5 billion dollars were poured into startups creating AI solutions, with most of the capital flowing into companies specializing in healthcare, cybersecurity, or enterprise niches. On the corporate level, tech giants like Baidu and Google have spent somewhere between $20 billion to $30 billion on R&D deployment and acquisitions, creating a rat race for patents, talent, and intellectual property.

While it’s clear that investors are enamored by AI and what it’s capable of, its still a black box for many companies. And although the macro business case for implementing AI is broadly understood, executives across the globe still have questions about what problem to solve and how to leverage the technology effectively.

According to Harvard Business Review, AI is well-suited for three key business needs: automating business processes, gaining insight through data analyses, and engaging with customers and employees.

One of the most common, low-hanging fruit opportunities for companies to pursue is automating routine tasks, which are usually time consuming, repetitive, and mostly administrative tasks. This is probably the least intensive method of AI and typically brings the quickest return on investment.

Another common application of AI leverages is its ability to detect patterns within vast volumes of data and create insights to support decision-making. In fact, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Narrative Science, 61% of organizations that have an innovation strategy say they are leveraging AI to find opportunities in data that they would have otherwise missed, while only 22% of respondents without a strategy could say the same.

Finally, AI is uniquely suited for engaging with customers and employees. The rise of the chatbot has automated these interactions at an unprecedented level, and the technology is dramatically improved by the application of AI.

Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Laid out above are three potential use-cases for AI in any corporation. Automation of rote tasks, identifying new opportunities, and better engagement with customers and employees are all business process that AI is uniquely suited to augment.

This menu comes with a word of caution. We’ve used these as AI’s proving ground so far. The results have been promising, but we have not yet experienced AI’s full potential. In this nebulous, highly-dynamic world of technology, taking a “problem-first, technology-second” approach is critical to success.

Historically, the biggest drivers of economic growth have been technological innovations, carefully applied to solve for business needs. Since the beginning of time, humans have seen industrial growth as a result of technical evolution and new resources that create new means. Some of these advancements have introduced entirely new revolutions of industry. Two potent examples are the steam engine, and electricity. Both transitioned the workforce away from manual tasks to increasingly productive cerebral tasks.

The steam engine was introduced in the late 1700s, as part of the first industrial revolution. It transitioned manual, time-intensive methods of production into a mechanized system that massively increased production output. In the second industrial revolution, electricity catalyzed new waves of analogous innovations and opportunities for manufacturing and production, replacing the coal shovelers with workers to maintain fuses and the electric motors. The third industrial revolution introduced electronics and IT, and an entirely new paradigm of automation.

Now, as AI takes center stage, we find ourselves on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution.

In the same manner that other innovations have catalyzed more efficient production methods, AI allows workers to replace many of the repetitive tasks, intellectual or physical, with automation.

This time around, however, built into our advancements is an innate flexibility and diversity. A steam engine may have been modified after installation by the workers to improve efficiency. Electricity required workers to change installed hardware. AI is not just another device that helps workers be more efficient, but one that updates and adapts to the needs of industry over time.

In this new paradigm, building solutions that address real business needs is more important than ever. The brittleness of the steam engine, or the properties of electricity meant that we were only able to adapt the solution to the constraints of the technology.

AI allows businesses to purpose-build solutions, and thoughtfully adapt them as needs and goals change. The fourth industrial revolution, and the future of AI, is not going to be defined solely by our technological advancements, but by our ability to meaningfully apply this technology to solve real problems.

Welcome to the future. What will you build?