“Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing”
-Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin
The times they are a-changin. Last year was a banner one for AI. We saw fevered lip service paid to the state and future of self-driving vehicles and a parallel proliferation of the number of vehicles actually utilizing the technology on the roadways. DeepMind beat the world’s greatest human master of one of the most complicated board games known to man. Systems started to diagnose diseases with more speed and proficiency than physicians. Amazon deployed a machine-run retail store. Closer to home, here at Counselytics, using our AI contract platform, we analyzed more than 3 million pages of text and saved our clients millions of dollars.
Productivity drives the well-being of society at large. And AI promises to be a boon for productivity. Counselytics manages in seconds what traditionally took a contract professional or lawyer, or their back office, weeks or months of work. By using machines in this manner, we are embracing the thesis of man-machine symbiosis on which Counselytics was built, and creating an opportunity for your employees and other professionals to manage higher level tasks, to use judgment, and add critical value. At a time when the absolute entry-level worker is being paid $15 per hour, we cannot afford to needlessly deploy personnel. Instead, we need to think creatively about opportunities to weave machine intelligence into the tapestry of business.
When new technologies take hold, they tend to do so with exponential growth, as represented by the N(t) function and curve on the right. To be sure, research firm Forrester predicts that investment in AI technology will triple in 2017, projecting an increase of more than 300 percent in cognitive computing investment as compared to 2016, promising to bring even more advances. Research firm Tractica reinforced this view, suggesting that “AI” will be a $40 billion market within eight years. The research clearly indicates that your competitors are planning to spend, so now is the time to act decisively and swiftly.
Early adoption will generate huge efficiencies and competitive advantages, as systems will learn your files, writing styles, preferences and language much sooner. AI differs from some other technologies in this regard. While hindsight suggests it would have been wise for a company to delay the adoption of the smartphone upon the release of the Palm Pilot, with cognitive systems like ours, the machines themselves are poised to evolve with your business over time. Since the algorithms learn over time, companies will avoid the typical 3-5 year upgrade cycle. Move now and by this time next year, you may be significantly ahead of your peers and building machine intelligence at an exponential pace. By working with our system in an iterative fashion, you are able to custom-train models to fit your business and data analytics needs.
Last year we were able to help companies in a myriad of ways: to identify real property leases for vacant buildings, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings per contract; to assess Brexit exposure for a multi-national, European bank; and to streamline procurement processes and technology at one of the world’s largest insurance companies, creating savings up to 15% of total contract value. Undoubtedly events and market conditions will generate spot opportunities this year; but the real value to be had involves deploying our technology to structure the burgeoning contractual payload in your organization. Using our system will not only produce workflow efficiencies, but it will also directly impact the P&L as we uncover hidden opportunities to maximize revenue and decrease spend.
But Temper the Hype!
Despite all the progress and future possibility, we would all be remiss if we failed to temper the excitement and promise for the future with a word of caution. Last year saw the fever reach a new pitch, and some of the hype of AI is doing everyone in the trenches a big disservice.
If the real practitioners fail to manage expectations and separate science fiction from practical business application, customer retention rates (whether those customers are inside or outside of your business) will suffer. Stick to the man-machine storyline and everything will be fine. But beware that this year could very well see some sort of backlash against the AI hype.