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What Is AI? Or, The True Story of Ted’s Robot Overlords

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What is AI?

A godawful Spielberg movie. *rimshot* I’m here till Tuesday.

But seriously, artificial intelligence is as much the present as the future. AI’s a part of many of the tools you use every day. And you’d be surprised at how the tech behind those tools could also help your business, especially your business intelligence software.

But rather than drone on (oh good Lord pun not intended), I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Ted. Ted’s a good example of a bad example, and he’s about to go on a technophobic tear that’ll show you how AI can drive revenue, save time, and help your small business challenge the big players.

Just don’t be like Ted.

The Amazing True Story of Ted’s Robot Overlords, a Geoff Hoppe Joint

Ted isn’t very fond of technology. “No moving parts” is Ted’s life motto. He wrote it out in permanent marker and put it above his desk at work. And home. And on the ceiling of his ‘83 Honda Accord, which has a cassette deck. Don’t hate, cassettes are coming back. Worked for vinyl.

“I’ve seen Terminator, bruh,” Ted says to his co-worker, Terry. “When the networks decide it’s time to control-z all of our carbon-based heinies, I’d like to be far, far away, and not have my data accessible to them.” Ted decides to burn off some frustration at this fact by listening to Pandora. He may not like technology, but who doesn’t like music?

Where Ted misses out: the same artificial intelligence Pandora uses to recommend music could be a big help to Ted’s business. Pandora actually uses AI to figure out what you’ll like, based on which songs get a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or get skipped. Similarly, Ted’s business could be using AI to figure out what customers like (or don’t), and use that to reduce churn rate.

What is AI? A way to organize contacts

Ted works in sales. He could use software to track leads, clients, and sales, but Ted’s inexplicable lifelong hatred for the Protestant work ethic gives him a healthy distrust for efficiency. Ted instead hand engraves all of his contacts into an antique address book. No, he’s not a hipster, and he’s offended you asked. He just prefers experiencing the authenticity of handmade things while he sips a lavender-infused craft cocktail through his waxed mustache.

Where Ted’s missing out: customer relationship management software with artificial intelligence could organize Ted’s contacts so he wouldn’t have to hand enter all of his old contacts (in calligraphy because it’s Ted). AI-assisted CRM software could also integrate Ted’s inbox with his company’s CRM software, so the extra task of entering the names of his clients would be erased.

What is AI? A way to weed out busy work

Ted’s overwhelmed. It’s a busy week, which means by about 1 p.m. Monday, Ted’s already got a backlog of roughly twenty calls and twenty emails he has to respond to. And a lot of what he’s doing is pretty basic stuff. Ted suggested his company remedy this by recruiting local third graders to do this kind of grunt work. Ted called it “an exciting internship opportunity.” His boss called it “super inappropriate.” State and federal legislation call it “child labor.”

Where Ted misses out: AI can already do a lot of routine work. At the insurance startup Lemonade, they’re developing an AI that can sell multiple policies simultaneously, at any time of day. If Ted wants help, he doesn’t have to park his van outside of an elementary school to get it. Intelligent virtual assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa, can already answer questions asked in plain English. Better yet, Cortana learns from a user’s past questions and anticipates what future information they might want.

What is AI? A computer that speaks your (natural) language (query)

Ted’s trying to crunch some numbers, but to do that, he’ll have to use his company’s traditional business intelligence software, which requires Ted type out his question in SQL. Yes, Ted knows some SQL. It may seem contradictory, but Ted would respond that consistency is the hobgoblin of the foolish mind. Here’s what a SQL query looks like:

Ted’s third graders probably couldn’t handle this, anyways.

Despite knowing SQL, Ted still hates technology. Wall-E made Ted weep, but only because it painted robots in a positive light. “Wall-E?!” Ted shrieks. “More like Wall-E-VIL. You know who’s going to seize power once the fat people return to Earth? Yeah, Exactly.” The Wall-E/Eve relationship did nothing for Ted.

He also had no emotional reaction to the opening of Up, so he’s probably dead inside.

Where Ted misses out: with business intelligence software that uses natural language query, Ted wouldn’t have to know SQL. He could just write the question in plain English. Natural language query uses AI algorithms to make searching business data as easy as googling something. Type a question, get an answer.

Ted’s objections to technology will calcify into an all-out rejection of zippers at some point within the next ten years. Ted believes zipper teeth are “the heinous bourgeois ancestor of binary code and digitalization.” This may or may not be related to the fact that Ted gets his fingers stuck in them on a regular basis.

What is AI? A Predictive Analytics Godsend

As much as Ted loves crunching numbers, he wishes he could do more. Traditional business intelligence software only looks at past data. It can’t use predictive analytics to inform future plans. Ted accepts that the future is unknowable, but that hasn’t stopped him from designing a technology-business-themed Tarot card deck to figure out what’s coming down the pipe. Ted may or may not have spent a week possessed by the ghost of Alan Turing. Still didn’t help.

Somewhere, Aleister Crowley weeps hot, quiet tears.

Where Ted misses out: Tarot cards can’t predict the future. Analytics software with artificial intelligence, however, can. Amazon Machine Learning can make future-tense predictions out of your past-tense data. If you’ve got a large enough amount of data, Amazon Machine Learning can help you build predictive data models that tell you what might happen.

What is AI? Your lunch (sort of).

About lunchtime, Ted decides he’s in the mood for Italian. He doesn’t have the time to search, so he pulls out his iPhone and asks Siri where the nearest Italian place is. Only two blocks away, and they’ve got a 5-star rating on Yelp.

Where Ted’s missing out: he could be using Siri, Alexa, or Cortana for business purposes, too, as a personal virtual assistant. The emphasis is on the “personal” in that last sentence: AI virtual assistants use the information in your emails, texts, web searches and more, so their answers and suggestions are as personalized as those of a good human manservant (which Ted sort of wishes he had). For instance, Ted could ask Siri what’s on the schedule for this afternoon, rather than taking a two-hour lunch that will make him late for his performance review.

Other AI-powered personal virtual assistants take it one step further. Amy, by x.ai, uses AI algorithms to schedule your meetings. Playing email tag with a customer? Amy checks the schedules of both parties and suggests a time you’re both free. Ted also could have used Cleo, an AI-enabled financial app, to realize eating out today wasn’t the best idea.

What is AI? The Quantified Self, 2.0

After work, Ted goes for a run. He’s got an app that tracks how far he runs, his overall time, calories burned, and his split pace. His app integrates with Google maps so he can see where he’s run. He can even compare his time to other runners on the same course.

Ted imagines he’s running from those octo-spider things in The Matrix. Ted burns roughly 1,000 calories a run because those things are terrifying.

Where Ted’s missing out: tracking your run isn’t the only way to turn a map into results. Location intelligence, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms, can connect businesses and maximize profits. Voicebox uses location intelligence to help customers find the right businesses, and Carto uses location intelligence to figure out travelers’ spending trends based on where they were coming from, and where they were going.

What IS AI?

Something you might already be using. Do you use business intelligence software with AI? Or do you use any of other technological tools listed above in your business? If so, let me know in the comments. I’m always interested to hear more AI success stories.

Looking for Business Intelligence software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Business Intelligence software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes content for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested in pretty much any field you can name. If you’re a company that offers field service management software, feel free to email him or tweet at him @CapterraGeoff. When he’s not reading and writing about field service management, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.

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