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AI And Consciousness: Could It Become 'Human'?

We have human-sounding AI technology that responds to customer service calls and helps customers navigate the issues they face.

We have smart assistants that wake their users up on time, share information about the weather outside and report on the latest news.


We have intelligent tools taking over administrative tasks such as meeting scheduling, calendar management, or even lead generation while the employees focus on more important tasks that require human judgment.


With AI getting more and more pervasive in our day-to-day lives, it is gradually turning into an integral, seamless and natural element — something many considered impossible only a few years ago. And I believe the fast pace of its development and its current ubiquity are due to its unique ability to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence — and learn to get better at completing them over a short period of time.


For a vast majority of people I've spoken to around the world, it is this ability to quickly learn and perform activities while maximizing efficiency that they associate with AI’s key strength and the value it brings to the table. But the things these AI systems inherently lack as of today, or the areas where they fall behind humans, are the elements of imagination, intuition and human judgment.


However, as AI continues to learn and improve its performance, perhaps to surpass human capabilities, a question arises: Will AI ever gain the consciousness to compete with humans? And what exactly would it mean for AI to gain "consciousness" in the real world today? And how far is AI, really, from reaching that point?


AI has already begun transforming traditional sales and marketing practices by adding such elements as analytics, processing and automation to an industry that has been driven by human intuition and judgment for years. However, the introduction of AI to sales and marketing has already kicked off the process of better customer acquisition and retention: According to the 2019 CMO Survey, many companies are using AI for content personalization, gaining customer insights through predictive analytics, and conducting customer segmentation and targeting.


An illustration of such AI solutions is the marketing strategy H&M employs. The company uses a bot to create a customized user profile for each of its customers by asking questions about style preferences, shopping behaviors, and sizing. In addition to optimizing the flow of the customers’ shopping experience and making it more efficient, an AI strategy like this can also provide the sales and marketing teams with accurate data they can use to devise highly personalized customer journeys tailored to each customers’ individual needs. The insights the teams gain from that customer data can also inform future marketing strategies and targeting decisions for better results.


The sales and marketing revolution doesn’t end with marketing sales campaigns and digital content customization. It also includes in-store experiences in retail shops around the world that have taken steps toward automating these experiences so they're on par with online shopping journeys. While traditionally the salespeople in stores were the customers’ guides on their journey from start to finish, the situation has changed significantly: Features such as self-checkout and in-store digital catalogs and libraries allow companies to leverage AI and cater to the more tech-savvy customers’ needs.


In my opinion, one of the most successful examples of in-store experience driven by AI is Sephora’s Color IQ technology that helps in-store customers find the best makeup shades and match them to the exact color of their skin without the need for endless trial and error. Color IQ — in combination with Lip IQ — simply scans a customer’s face and generates personalized recommendations for makeup shades, from lipstick to concealer, which helps the customer find the perfect shade to highlight their skin color.


Other AI applications that could become on par with human skills are robocalling and bots in customer service and telemarketing. In fact, according to data compiled by WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com, career growth in the telemarketing field specifically has been projected to decline by 3% by 2024. One of the more basic examples of AI-powered customer service is chatbots, many of which stand out with the speed and relevance of their responses in real-time. They typically take over the task of providing answers to frequently asked questions, while human employees get a chance to focus on more individual customer cases and provide highly specialized service by addressing customers’ unique issues more quickly and efficiently.


Since AI already automates repetitive tasks and can increase accuracy and efficiency, and since it can discover hidden insights and trends thanks to its algorithms, it may only be a matter of time until it revolutionizes the bookkeeping and accounting practices in place today. According to one Accounting Today article, AI technologies could automate the lengthy process of gathering, sorting and visualizing pertinent data, while human employees are left to focus on more productive tasks and have more time to achieve tangible results and business goals. These capabilities are not fictional — in fact, systems such as QuickBooks have already been introducing AI tools that allow client companies (big or small) to automate repetitive office work and improve cash flow forecasts.


What the achievements in AI applications today have proven to me is their ability to allow humans to exercise their judgment and creativity, while computers are left to assist them in relatively more operational, systematic and reason-driven assignments and tasks. And while AI exhibits the elements of evolution and growth so inherent to human beings, it differs from its creators in very significant ways: self-awareness and human relationships.


I believe AI can contribute to humanity with efficiency and streamlining of activities, and it can help in focusing our efforts on different aspects of life and work.


Gary Fowler Orifinally published on Forbes

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