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Level Blog

3 min read

Shirley Bassey was right about Artificial Intelligence

Mar 8, 2019 10:00:00 AM

“They say the next big thing is here, That the revolution's near, But to me it seems quite clear, That it's all just a little bit of history repeating.”

At Level we use Slack for our internal communications and we have a dedicated channel for ‘interesting industry news’. One recent article shared sparked a conversation between two of our senior developers, Andy Fisher and John Dunning, which I had the benefit of eavesdropping on. The gist of the conversation came as a bit of a surprise to some of the younger members of the team. It turns out that AI isn’t new; AI has been around for a very long time.

AI through the years

The Turing Test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior, and it was devised in 1950. Throughout the subsequent decades there has been an abundance of AI technology but much of what we see and hear now about artificial intelligence being the future of business can be traced back to early innovations:

  • Today AI is seen as the ‘Future of HR’ – but also see expert HR system Parys by Unibit Holdings, developed in the mid 80’s.
  • When you think of AI programming rules you might think of Oracle’s OPA or Drools, but then see the original language of AI ‘Smalltalk’ – developed in 1974.
  • You might look at Workforce Dimensions by Kronos, a disruptive workforce management AI tool – but also look at Camplan, WASP and Prospect from the late 70’s and 80’s.

Understanding AI in practice

In my colleague Deven’s recent blog, ‘What is AI?’, I think it’s safe to say she covered everything, apart from the fact that an AI is a three toed sloth.

An example of AI in practice given by our CTO Samik Kumar at a recent all-hands meeting resonated with me. On a cold winter morning, if my windscreen wipers are set to automatically come on when I turn on the engine of my car, doing so could damage them if the windscreen was frozen. As a human, I would know not to put the wipers on because of the temperature. The Artificial Intelligence comes in when you program the wipers with that extra data point to understand that the windscreen will be frozen when the temperature is below zero, therefore it shouldn’t put the wipers on. Empowering the machine in the decision making process.

But what constitutes an industrial revolution?

One piece of technology doesn’t in itself trigger a revolution, see also ‘one swallow doesn’t make a Summer’, but the 4th industrial revolution is upon us and it incorporates many differing technologies. Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, sees fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, quantum computing and nanotechnology as part of this revolution. And Bernard Marr writes “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting almost every industry in every country and creating massive change in a non-linear way at unprecedented speed.”

So AI may have been around for a long time, but only now have we seen it penetrate our lives at such a large scale. 

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Jamie Stewart
Written by Jamie Stewart