A Historical Approach to AI: An AI Trend Report

I remember back in the 80’s watching the internet come to life. It felt all-encompassing. It was foreign and novel. But looking back, you might think we were sleep-walking into a new era. Forget months or years, it took decades for the trend to take hold. It was a trend that would change the world. 

Speaking of history, when I was a kid—no different than today—we had a history class. And year after year, the face of that teacher would change but the introductory spiel would sound the same. Learning about the past instructs us about the future, they would say. It never rang out as a full truth to me. Sure, the past warned us of the mistakes we could make again, but the future was a new horizon. 

When it came time to discuss this AI trend report, I had an instinct that history was important, not because the past spelled the future, but because it was entirely different. 

The internet had come on like the glacial shift of tectonic plates and now, AI was moving like a tornado out of the corner of the rearview mirror in the midwest. 

We had to make sense of it…and quickly. 

It struck me we should start at the beginning. Like any strong organization, the thinking and spirit originates with the founder. I said to my team, if companies are going to decide what to do with AI, they’ll need to know how it works and why it was designed that way. 

We started with the forefathers, folks like Geoffrey Hinton and Alan Turing, and put together the puzzle pieces for how this wave of technology might be best used today. 

The Beauty of a BluePrint

You take a guy like Geoffrey Hinton, a genius who molded the blueprint for a technology that changed the world, and in no time at all, you can’t help but like him. 

These days, at 76, Hinton spends his time on an island, observing and interacting with nature. But Hinton stoked the fire for his relationship with AI as a young psychology major. 

He liked the study of the human mind but he was also interested in computers. He spent decades puzzling over the thought that our thoughts represent different physical arrangements in the brain. This, he called neural nets. And it made him millions—$44 million, with the sale of a company that had improved imaging to Google, to be exact. 

It was the starting point for the way we think about AI today, which is to say that AI is modeled after the human brain. That means that while it may feel foreign as a technology, it is actually entirely familiar and that gives us a clear advantage in how we choose to use it and the strategy that we build around it. 

The Groundwork for Chat-GPT

The heavy hitter of the last year has been Chat-GPT and Alan Turing played the key role there. He also developed his thinking around the brain. If humans could reason, solve problems, and make decisions, then why couldn’t machines?

He developed the Turing test. It’s a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from human behavior. It was the groundwork for artificial intelligence. So really, these two men and their colleagues set the stage for what’s going on in the news and on our tablets today.

How the History of AI Informs Your Organization

We didn’t start with history to bore you. 

There are some fascinating characters who have put a lifetime of work into the trends we are seeing emerge today. 

It can be hard to think about how you might use AI in your organization. You know you need to do something, but to what extent and on what timeline remains unclear. 

Characters like Hinton and Turing set the tone and they provide context for what AI is all about. They help us think about it relationally, as opposed to some alien force sent to take over our organizations and markets. The better you understand AI, including the threats or challenges, the more you can do with it. 

If you read a bit further into our AI trend report, you’ll see six examples of how AI is being put to use in different sectors. This is a great model for how you can make the technology work for you in your organization. 

If you have any questions about how to build AI into your strategy, we’re always happy to hear from you: kevin@lawrenceandco.com

To read more from the report, click here.

The Challenge

    • How can AI fit into the goals of your organization and support your future?
    • What are the major innovations AI could drive that you want to ensure your organization benefits from?

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