5 practical reasons to embrace artificial intelligence

AI is about more than just robots. There are several reasons that people should accept artificial intelligence, including health care fighting the current coronavirus pandemic and empowering people with disabilities.

Top 5 things to know about the state of artificial intelligence
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Artificial intelligence is about more than robots. Whether someone considers themself a tech expert, or a newbie when it comes to technology, there are still a plethora of things in any modern home that use artificial intelligence (AI). 

But while it's easy to get pulled into a world of science-fiction robots like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Skynet from the Terminator series, or the robot on Lost in Space that often gave the warning, "Danger, Will Robinson!", everyone is slowly coming to realize that it's really nothing like that.

In a typical household, everything from smart assistants in the form of smart speakers, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, streaming services, and spam filters are all powered by AI. And of course there are now an assortment of cute AI dogs, cats and other robotic pets as well. Microsoft estimates that 85% of Americans already use AI. 

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise 2020 (free TechRepublic PDF)

Microsoft reports that there are five practical ways that AI can improve people's lives:

AI can improve health

The current COVID-19 pandemic has made health a primary concern for everyone, and AI can make a big impact in healthcare. AI diagnostics can diagnose a range of illnesses with clinical accuracy. Sensors in smartphones, watches and other devices that people carry in their pockets are becoming less expensive, more common and more capable. A Microsoft report says, "As AI advances, it's not a science-fictional thought to imagine a world in which everyone has access to a virtual doctor who can tell when you're getting sick before you know you are. Imagine if a virtual doctor could then either prescribe a course of action autonomously or refer you to a medical professional when your illness is beyond the ability of the AI to help."

AI can help seniors be self-sufficient

Autonomous delivery bots can assist older individuals seeking to live self-sufficient lives. These bots can deliver medicine, groceries and necessities to the elderly. In the current COVID-19 crisis, delivery drones can bring items to seniors so that they don't risk contracting coronavirus by going to the grocery store or the pharmacy. 

AI can empower people with disabilities

More than 1 billion people around the world have disabilities, and AI can help them by enabling computers to hear, see and reason. For example, a Microsoft app called Seeing AI empowers individuals with visual impairment by describing people, objects and text that is around them.

AI can help farmers and agriculture

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Image: Harper Business

The future of farming includes AI-powered drones that can help farmers gather information on their crops. And there are smart tractors that can speed the rate of planting, harvesting and tending to crops. Drones can fly over a farm and take pictures and videos that spotlight irrigation problems, insect infestations or other potential threats to crops. Artificial intelligence can help farms of all sizes make decisions about what to plant, when to plant it, what works best for their area and what has been successful for other farmers in their area. 

AI can do the busy work for individuals

Use AI for time-consuming or mundane tasks such a vacuuming, lawn mowing, pool cleaning or window cleaning in the home. These tasks don't require creativity or problem-solving, freeing up individuals for other jobs. Microsoft's report says, "although some jobs have and will change because of new technologies, AI will create new jobs, too. It will also enhance a lot of the work we currently do by helping make some jobs safer, easier or more productive."

Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott has a new book out today, Reprogramming the American Dream, that focuses on how AI can create opportunity for individuals and improve people's lives. The book is written from his perspective as a technologist whose life started in rural America and ended up in Silicon Valley. 

Also see

IT leader's guide to deep learning (TechRepublic)
Telemedicine, AI, and deep learning are revolutionizing healthcare (TechRepublic download)
Artificial intelligence ethics policy (TechRepublic Premium)
What is AI? Everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence (ZDNet)
6 ways to delete yourself from the internet (CNET)
Artificial Intelligence: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

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