As the use of artificial intelligence among various industries becomes ubiquitous, some companies have ramped up their hiring since the software has automated tedious processes and eliminated human errors.
While the fears that artificial intelligence will replace many human jobs is not unfounded, some industries have discovered that the software has enabled their current employees to be more productive and successful since they no longer have to focus on mundane tasks. The use of artificial intelligence has been present for many years in online chat boxes that answer customer service questions and self-driving cars as the technology mimics and learns human behavior.
The fear that artificial intelligence will replace a large percentage of jobs is rational, but at the same time, there is a growing acceptance that it has "done a lot of good," said Alex Terry, CEO of Conversica, a Foster City, Calif.-based artificial intelligence-based software company that engages potential customers in natural, two-way human conversations and is used by sales representatives.
"These services such as Netflix, Pandora and Amazon recommending songs and movies are pretty convenient and already embedded in our daily lives," he said.
As artificial intelligence matures through its various disciplines such as machine learning, image and text classification, natural language processing or speech recognition, the technology is designed to conduct very routine and specific tasks and able to replace some jobs held by humans. While artificial intelligence could replace customer service jobs in some industries; in others it would allow account executives to spend more time on customers' problems instead of on routine and often boring activities, said Terry.
This automation and ability to sift through large amounts of data is helping businesses see patterns and "solve real problems," he said. "Businesses need artificial intelligence to crunch through the data to make it into something useful and data scientists are working on this."
Other jobs are being created in order to build, monitor and improve artificial intelligence and is designed to be collaborative with the tasks of human employees, rather than compete with them, Terry said.
"Let the AI do the repetitive tasks and what it is good at, but let people focus on more complex activities," he said. "The two together is always stronger than only using one of them."
The algorithms and data in Conversica's artificial intelligence has enabled it to sift through over 200 million text and email messages from its clients such as Cisco (CSCO) , Fiat Chrysler (FCA) , IBM (IBM) and CenturyLink (CTL) more efficiently. The advantage of the software is that it is used in initial sales pitches, but it can detect when a person needs to step in and will transfer over the conversation in real-time, said Terry.
"The technology has come a long way from a few years ago and we have reached a cultural tipping point since there is a growing acceptance of using artificial intelligence," he said.
Artificial intelligence has generated "new lines of business that were previously inaccessible," said Victor Echevarria, CEO and founder of Remedy Labs, a San Francisco-based medical bill negotiator. The company utilizes the technology to review dozens and even hundreds of lines of codes from medical bills in order to find errors made by hospitals and doctors offices for procedures.
"AI can do much of the legwork in reviewing large amounts of data to find valuable needles in large haystacks where it wouldn't be possible to hire humans to do the same," he said.
The lack of transparency in medical bills is the norm as lab companies and emergency rooms often "upcode" various procedures as a method to extract more money from the insurers, said Echevarria. Consumers and employers often receive incorrect bills, but it has not been feasible until recently to build costly audit products.
In the past, only high dollar value bills such as lengthy stays were examined since paying nurses to review simple annual physical bills would "destroy our business since the error rate is so low," he said. "Machine learning and predictive models give us the ability to review every claim and every bill for errors, paying clinical staff fair wages to review bills that our system flags."
Since a neonatal intensive care unit stay often results in medical bills with over 5,000 line items, using a human employee to find all the overcharges in that bill would be very expensive for a company and they would likely miss errors reviewing every single line by hand.
"Artificial intelligence allows us to be in business," said Echevarria. "We couldn't afford to pay humans to review every single bill since $50 lab bills are correct most of the time. You could actually say that every employee at this company exists because of advances in data science."
The massive computing leaps have created new jobs since natural language processing engineers and developers are now able to leverage the latest technology and methods by getting a machine to understand sentences as a human would, said Lyden Foust, founder of Spatial, a Detroit-based startup which integrates hyperlocal social intelligence into any mobile or online map object.
"We would not have a company if it weren't for machine learning methods since we deal with large, unstructured and real-time data to help people understand what a place is like," he said.
Spatial's technology collects multiple streams of data which is mostly generated from social media to answer questions only a local would know such as "show me live jazz music, where do locals get coffee or which restaurants have best sunset views," said Foust.
Their use of artificial intelligence helps people "navigate like a local" and the data is used by other businesses such as the travel or real estate industries.
"Humans are great for understanding their environment by taking in visual signals," he said. "However, we cannot be in more than one place at one time and we cannot take in information about things we don't see. We are teaching machines to do this, at scale and in real time. The future of AI is not to replace humans, but to extend our ability to be human."
One co-founder says his entire startup, Trim, is built around artificial intelligence and employs software engineers and designers. The San Francisco-based AI assistant automatically cancels subscriptions, fights overdraft fees and negotiate bills, said Thomas Smyth, CEO of Trim, which raised $2.2 million recently from venture investors including actor Ashton Kutcher.
"We believe AI will be the primary driver of American economic growth over the next century," he said. "Technology allows disruptors like Trim to scale rapidly and bring greater competition to retail financial services for the first time in decades, which translates into lower costs and a much better experience for consumers."
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Editors' pick: Originally published May 12.