2017 was a breakout year for artificial intelligence (AI), writes Kriti Sharma, vice-president: AI at Sage.

Despite repeated attempts to sensationalise AI over the past year, we have witnessed unprecedented gains in mainstream understanding of AI-driven technologies.

People have begun to grasp the impact of AI-powered applications on their everyday digital lives. Building upon this progress, AI is poised to continue to journey into the mainstream throughout 2018. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. For many, the mechanics and decision-making processes behind these groundbreaking technologies remain a mystery. Here’s how I predict AI will evolve and excel over the next year:


Human-like AI will slowly fade away

Thankfully, in 2018, the AI industry will begin to move away from developing technologies that reside in human-like physical structures.

I believe this is one of the most promising trends for the future of AI. As we’ve seen from Sophia the Robot, making AI appear more human while trying to make it behave human-like actually ends up detracting from real progress.

Consequently, AI engineers and developers will pivot toward building algorithm-driven AI that responds, makes decisions and interacts with people in a human way.

We will see a pronounced industry shift as AI becomes increasingly integrated into platforms and technologies people use to locate public records, rate customer experiences, manage their finances, and learn.


The AI industry will start to prioritize solving the world’s biggest problems

In 2018, the industry will shift toward deploying AI to solve the right problems.

We’re not currently using AI to solve the biggest problems facing the world today. Instead, the majority of AI’s current enterprise and consumer applications focus on small-scale, niche problems. Sure, a search algorithm can direct you to the best dentist in Paris. A smart assistant may be able to help you to book a meeting room. A voice assistant might help you to discover a music genre you never knew existed. But is this really the most effective use of AI?

Today’s AI technologies already possess the potential to address much more complex problems, such as managing an entire workforce and solving climate change. Throughout 2018, I predict companies across industries will begin to deploy AI technologies to solve the world’s most complex and significant problems.


AI and humans will realize that working together produces the best results

Too often reports covering AI and its impact on the job market provoke needless panic. Many fear how advancements in AI will impact future job opportunities, talent and workplaces.

Although some jobs will inevitably be replaced by AI technologies, the reality is that most will evolve to incorporate – and coexist with – AI in order to maximise benefits to companies. As a result, throughout 2018, we will see companies begin to establish retaining programs to educate their non-technical employees on how to effectively work with AI.


There will be greater emphasis on consumer adoption of AI

In 2018, the AI industry will strive to establish trust with the everyday consumer. The industry will work to ensure consumers feel comfortable with AI-driven products and services, and communicate more clearly on the privacy and security of AI products.

All of this communication will occur in simple language that regular people can understand. If we can make consumers more comfortable with AI, we can help to address widespread ethical and technical concerns, as well as maximise AI adoption.


Cybersecurity will turn to AI to tackle sophisticated threats

While Hollywood would love for us to believe that hackable technology can result in robots seizing our planet, engineers will actually begin to address these issues at the data and algorithm levels with AI.

To-date, hackers’ skills have exceeded the cybersecurity industry’s ability to safeguard vulnerable technologies. To resolve this discrepancy, tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon will pursue partnerships with startups and academic researchers at leading institutions to create AI-driven security.

Ultimately, these collaborations will help to produce AI systems capable of monitoring, identifying and preventing hacks.


The regulatory landscape of AI will move forward

We will see an increase in both regulating AI as an industry and as data, which will result in heightened accountability throughout the industry.

As governments around the world seek to learn more about the AI industry, major industry players will start to unveil how they self-regulate AI-driven enterprise applications. This increased self-regulation in the industry will help to address additional business and public safety concerns about data privacy and protection.

Throughout 2018, we will see continued pressure on the industry to increase accountability and transparency. The AI industry will now be expected to clearly explain how companies use data – particularly consumer information – to build and inform AI applications.


AI development training and tools will become available to a wider talent pool

Just a few years ago, developing AI technologies required advanced degrees in data science and engineering.

Today, the industry is much more accessible. Developer tools, training programs, and more attainable career opportunities now enable non-technical people to break into this once impenetrable industry. In 2018, the industry will grow even more accessible through the introduction of additional tools, resources and educational opportunities.

Moving forward, people without advanced technical skills will emerge as the future leaders of AI, building solutions to address problems in industries ranging from finance to healthcare to transportation.

We will see technical experts collaborate with creative professionals to harness the power of AI to solve the world’s most pressing problems.


In 2018, conversations around AI will turn to action

In 2018, I believe the AI industry will continue to evolve and make significant strides toward reaching the mainstream. More people will become familiar with the nuances and intricacies of AI technologies.

AI-powered applications will continue to both increase in number across the enterprise and expand to new industries. Meanwhile, the AI industry will be pushed to assume responsibility for increasing transparency and accountability around these applications. We will see more robust partnerships forming within the AI industry, as well as between the private, public and academic sectors.

The AI industry launched a global conversation around the importance of developing ethical, unbiased and responsible AI last year. 2018 is the time for us to convert these discussions into tangible action. Industry leaders will now prioritize deploying AI technologies to tackle the most pressing business and societal problems, democratizing AI development tools, spearheading self-regulation strategies and effectively communicating AI’s unparalleled potential to the everyday consumer. 2018 is sure to be an outstanding year for AI.