Driverless cars. Drones. Alexa! Siri! Algorithms. Black Mirror! Westworld! All of a sudden, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere—in consumer products, in our entertainment, in our consciousness.

Every day we hear stories from Google, Uber, Baidu, Microsoft, Amazon and others about unprecedented achievements in language translation, gaming, image recognition, music composition, beer-delivering driverless trucks and a host of achievements, all powered by artificial intelligence.

But what is artificial intelligence, really? And, to be fair, do we even understand what intelligence is? Not really. At least we don’t always agree on it.

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

In 1983, long before the internet, a developmental psychologist named Howard Gardner published what is now a seminal work on the “Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” He argued that rather than having one overarching intelligence, humans have different kinds and to different degrees:

  • Linguistic intelligence (which is a facility with language)
  • Interpersonal (which some might call “emotional” intelligence)
  • Logical/mathematical intelligence
  • And, six others.

Whether or not you agree with Gardner’s categories, it gives us a way to think about artificial intelligence as something beyond pure number crunching. Computers are terrific at math, but not so much with the feelings. They can move objects with precision, but few people would argue that they’re creative in the way that humans are (but do listen to some of the AI-generated songs featured in this New York Times article).

How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Organizations

The idea of artificial intelligence (machines that can sense, classify, learn, reason, predict and interact) has been around for decades. So, why is it so inescapable now?

Kevin Kelly, in his book The Inevitable, argues that the combination of massive and available datasets, inexpensive parallel computing and advances in algorithms has made it possible for machines to function in ways that were previously unthinkable.

My new research report, The Age of AI: How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Organizationsargues that while today the splashy examples tend to dominate the news, artificial intelligence has huge implications for organizations and society.

But, these changes aren’t occurring exactly where you think they are. Here are a few things I discovered:

  1. The transformative value of AI is not always in the shiny examples

    Machines that can learn from new data and transform their own algorithms hold huge promise for predictive analytics.

  2. Your web-centric world is about to change.

    What happens when we can converse, using voice, text or touch and movement, with everything around us? You may want to take another look at that digital strategy. What happens to your website?

  3. AI will affect jobs, but possibly not in the way you think.

    Repetitive tasks, physical labor and tasks that can easily be automated will be most vulnerable. Understanding a bit about AI —what it is and isn’t—will help you plan, whether you are an employee or an executive.

  4. Will you be a data have or a data have-not?

    This is a thorny issue, not just for corporations but for government and other public institutions. Open data, shared data, data strategy, competitive advantage—expect these equations to change as data becomes the new oil.

  5. Ethics and transparency in AI will be a critical part of the customer experience

    When we live in economies based on data and algorithms, how we use that data and those algorithms—ethically, clearly, fairly and in a trustworthy and beneficial way—will become a critical factor for competitive advantage.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, there is truly so much to cover, and I hope this report helps you get started. To learn more about AI, you can download the full report for free.