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Artificial general intelligence in business holds promise

While AGI in business remains unattainable today, truly intelligent systems, chatbots and predictive analytics are potential use cases enterprises should keep their eyes on.

From the very beginnings of AI development over seven decades ago, people have dreamed of machines that can do work that only other humans were able to do. This vision of the generally intelligent machine is still potent in the vision of artificial general intelligence, the "strong" form of AI that still eludes researchers.

Today, all practical and widely adopted AI implementations are more focused, narrow forms that, at best, can approximate only part of humanity's cognitive abilities. Despite the elusive goal of achieving AGI, there are some who feel we are just at the edges of being able to make a machine that cannot only do individual, simple cognitive tasks, but the wide range of cognitive abilities that humans are capable of performing. Achieving true AGI could be a game-changer for businesses.

Intelligent systems keeping a watchful eye

An ongoing challenge facing organizations is managing their employees and maintaining their processes and systems. Combining the power of almost limitless computing capability with big data visibility, AGI-based systems could ease this burden. AGI systems, with their advanced ability to adapt and problem-solve, could keep a constant and watchful eye on all the indicators and metrics that are important to the enterprise. If a machine is not running correctly, a form is not filed in a compliant manner or anything within your organization doesn't match the normal patterns the AGI system has learned, then it can alert you of the problem.

Generally intelligent systems would be able to learn on their own how to identify normal patterns of behavior and spot anomalous, potentially dangerous or noncompliant situations. From cybersecurity threats to fundamental shifts in the marketplace, companies continue to struggle as they shift their focus and expenditures from one challenge to another. Artificial general intelligence systems could help fundamentally change this dynamic.

Rather than constantly trying to keep up with yesterday's problems, AGI-based systems will anticipate future needs, handle emerging organizational challenges and provide visibility into various enterprise blind spots.

Narrow AI vs. AGI
Artificial general intelligence remains elusive, but its potential use cases and capabilities are promising.

The truly intelligent enterprise assistant

At the core of AGI's enterprise benefits is the intelligent assistant. Rather than confining technology tasks to only those that can be operated on a relatively predictable and limited basis, the ideal enterprise assistant will be like the computer in Star Trek or the intelligent C-3PO and R2-D2 droids from Star Wars. In these science fiction visions of AGI systems, the intelligent machines are trusty companions providing significant power and capability just like those of their human counterparts.

As such, there's a wide range of business capabilities that AGI systems could provide as truly intelligent enterprise assistants. Those benefits include the following:

  • the ability to handle classification and recognition tasks without requiring training -- so-called zero-shot learning;
  • navigating complicated physical environments to facilitate delivery, logistics or operations of any kind;
  • handling a limitless number of languages to extend today's limited natural language processing (NLP) in order to communicate with people effectively; and
  • understanding the big picture and patterns happening around the world and among companies and their customers, suppliers, employees and stakeholders.

Making more intelligent chatbots

One of the major challenges with today's chatbots is that they struggle with human dialogue and conversation. While today's NLP systems can process a wide range of spoken and written text, the underlying intelligence of those systems remains limited. In most systems, humans need to encode much of the conversational flow, terminology and wording so that these chatbots and voice assistant systems can provide useful responses back to their human counterparts.

Artificial general intelligence in business could fundamentally change those chatbot limitations and expand their capabilities. Imbued with common sense, an understanding of context and the ability to have long back-and-forth interactions, AGI-enabled chatbots would be able to have any conversation that a human can have. This replication of human conversation has long been the goal for these systems, and AGI would move the field to it.

This enables a wide range of powerful capabilities for enterprises, including fully autonomous customer support, telemedicine and remote education systems. These can provide instant assistance to their users and applications in a wide range of industries where humans are not available to aid.

Continuous predictive analytics

Just as AGI systems will be able to automatically and autonomously handle a wide range of process needs, so too will they be able to become trusted assistants helping with a wide range of analytics tasks. Rather than having to deal with clunky reporting systems or narrow predictive analytics tools that can only handle a small set of decision support needs, an AGI-enabled predictive analytics tool will have significant forecasting and predictive power in an organization.

Big data-enabled AGI predictive analytics systems will be able to spot trends at an early stage and provide deep and specific decision recommendations that will meet the ever-evolving challenges of organizations. These systems will be able to go beyond the basic questions asked of them and, in many ways, will be more effective, suggesting changes and insights for the business.

AGI-enabled predictive analytics tools can help companies handle changes to their customers or market and avoid being blindsided. These scenarios are possible when you combine humanlike intelligence with the power of computing and big data. Today's AI has already shown how effective its combination with analytics can be. AGI can take this relationship even further.

A blended augmented intelligence workforce

The AI-enabled enterprise of the future will no doubt incorporate various AI systems as part of its core operations. The augmented enterprise will make use of fully autonomous, AGI-enabled process automation tools. General intelligence enables software to automatically route data between systems and can solve the issues that hold back current systems.

Currently, the best process automation still suffers from hardcoded processes, difficulties handling process exceptions and tasks that halt when presented with complicated cognitive tasks, such as document processing, recognition or decision-making. Artificial general intelligence in business will enable truly autonomous process automation that will eliminate issues with moving data between systems, handling hyper-specific tasks and dealing with the inevitable exceptions that occur.

We currently have augmented intelligence systems that provide help and support to their human counterparts, making them even better at their existing jobs. We're already seeing these augmented intelligence systems in a wide range of industries, such as healthcare, finance, retail and manufacturing, with AI systems adding value to daily human activities. Over the past few decades, we have seen technology move humans away from less productive areas of work to areas of higher-level value and strategy. No doubt, the introduction of AGI systems will do the same. Rather than a humanless and fully autonomous enterprise, the AGI-enabled enterprise will have a blend of AI systems side by side with their human counterparts.

In another form, these augmented intelligence systems will perform fully autonomous tasks that offload capabilities humans would otherwise do. We're already seeing these autonomous helpers operate in warehouses and logistics handling routing and delivery tasks. In the not-too-distant future, your next food and purchase deliveries might come from a fully autonomous bot.

While there are some who fear what could be possible when AI systems become "superintelligent," there are others that see the benefits AGI systems will provide enterprises that utilize their strengths. Understanding what's possible and how organizations can truly benefit from AGI will help continue to push investment, research and interest in this area.

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