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Reworking the future


Business is on the brink of a brave new world wrought by artificial intelligence (AI).

A revolution in which intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce, one that promises previously unobtainable sources of growth and innovation.
Until now, robots, big data analytics and other technologies have been used to work in parallel with people but in automated isolation. Their role: improve process efficiencies. Now, as companies invest in AI systems that can sense, communicate, interpret and learn, all that changes. AI can help businesses move beyond automation to elevate human capabilities that unlock new value.

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Today, many businesses have yet to apply AI in this way to improve efficiencies or customer outcomes.

They are at the first of three stages of adoption: education.

In most cases, businesses have reached the second stage: prototyping and experimental initiatives.

Only a few are embarking on the third stage: large-scale application.

They are practicing what Accenture terms Applied Intelligence, the ability to implement technology and human ingenuity across all parts of their core business in order to solve complex challenges, break into new markets or generate entirely fresh revenue streams. These include the online clothes retailer entering a crowded market to change the way consumers buy, the long-established sports shoemaker transforming the way manufacturers make and sell, or the pharma-tech company that fast-tracked initial phases of drug discovery to shortlist possible therapies for reducing rates of Ebola infection and multiple sclerosis.

The growth prospects of the AI revolution are not limited to such immediate outcomes.

To take a lesson from history, the launch of the Ford Model T did not just replace horse-dependent labor with manufacturing employment. It ushered in an age of personal mobility that underpinned 20th century economic growth by opening the way to new industries and markets. Likewise, AI will have an exponential impact. But the speed of the digital revolution is unprecedented. According to Gartner, Deep Learning and Machine Learning, two key emerging AI technologies, will reach mainstream adoption within two to five years. If businesses are to reap rewards from these developments, they need to take urgent action now.

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