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Artificial intelligence: 10 predictions for 2018

January 26, 2018

We speak to experts in the field of AI to find out just how big an impact AI is going to have this year.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting on the financial sector, and the wider economy. But there is much debate and confusion as to exactly what this impact really represents. Here, we ask our experts to make ten predictions for what the year holds.

 1) Virtual assistants will become the norm

Dr Joseph Reger is the chief technology officer at Fujitsu and an expert in machine learning and AI. He expects AI to make a big impact in 2018, with virtual assistants and chatbots becoming commonplace in the financial sector. "Over the course of the year, we’ll see an increase in the number of virtual assistants and chatbots that are currently in use by banks and insurance companies,” Dr Reger predicts. “Consumers will notice a significant ramp up over the next year.”

 2) Major brands will move away from email As bots increase, interaction with customers via email will fall, says Daniel Hong, research director at analytics firm Forrester. “More major brands will phase out email in favour of real-time customer-agent communications like chatbots,” says Hong. 

 3) Customer satisfaction will fall 

Hong says that not all chatbots are up to the job, so some companies are likely to annoy customers by deploying bots too soon in a bid to cut calls and emails. "Customer satisfaction levels will drop as companies drive more traffic to chatbots and self-service that are not fully optimized to engage customers effectively,” says Hong.

 4) Companies will use AI to stay compliant In Europe, new laws regarding customer data, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are coming into force in 2018. For many businesses, AI-based solutions will seem like the best option, says Dr Jurgen Galler, CEO of AI company 1plusX and a former director at Google. “The GDPR requires companies collecting data to enable consumers to: opt-in and out of communications easily; provide reports to consumers on what data is being collected about them; and provide easy ways to delete that data. Without AI tech, that will be very time consuming and costly for businesses," says Galler. 

5) The workforce will increase Many reports have emerged suggesting a fall in jobs due to AI. Not so, says Dr Reger, or at least not in 2018. "A whole new market for AI-based jobs will emerge, and the technology will not yet significantly replace workers. However, as AI systems increasingly automate many traditional jobs, this will create a growing challenge by 2020," he predicts. 

6) New business models will emerge

AI is going to be disruptive and will produce new business models, which we can expect to see emerging this year. “We can expect to see the start of a new wave of AI-based disruption – with retail a likely candidate for significant change." says Dr Reger.

7) The debate will get hotter The debate on AI is no longer one for the future, but one to be had now, and politicians can no longer avoid it. "We’re going to see a marked rise in debate regarding the ethics of AI,” Dr Reger explains. “Concerns will be openly debated at government level in a number of countries."

8) AI will become part of our daily online experience

Data driven businesses, such as those in media and marketing, will increasingly use AI to improve business processes, predicts Dr Galler. For consumers, this means AI will become part of their daily online experience. “The business processes which will start to integrate AI fastest in 2018 will be those which generate, or collect, lots of data. Digital media and marketing industries are the most likely business processes to start implementing AI in 2018,” says Galler.

9) Your new colleagues will be robots Physical robots are coming, too, and will soon be working alongside humans. "Assembly line workers will increasingly have robotic colleagues,” says Dr Reger. “To date, robots have been restricted to working inside cages on manufacturing processes. However, the emerging generation of smart, autonomous robots can see, touch, and collaborate safely with humans."

10) More time to be human#

Rather than fear AI, the experts suggest we should embrace it, and see it as an opportunity to ‘become more human’.  "Deployment of AI in 2018 will gives us all more time to be human,” says Dr Galler. “AI sceptics are often concerned with a fear that the robots are taking over. That fear masks one of the greatest benefits of AI. It improves lives, making work more enjoyable, more efficient and easier – and it gets rid of the most boring tasks at home and at work, meaning people can focus more on distinctly human tasks and talent.”

Written by
Jon Card

Jon is a freelance journalist specialising in small business enterprise and technology, writing for The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times on a regular basis.

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