“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction,” Bill Gates wrote in his 1995 book, “The Road Ahead.”

A few years later I saw an interview with Gates in which he applied a version of that statement to the ongoing development of the Internet. Today, a similar analysis could be applicable to artificial intelligence.

AI Intro featured artAll technologists characterize AI as still being in its very early days. Some say there’s not yet any technology that is truly “intelligent” in the way the word describes the functionality of the human brain. But in the same breath these realists point to some future time — three years from now, or five years, or ten — and prophesize, “Just you wait.”

Still, as happened with the Internet, there won’t be a shining moment of realization that AI is now inextricably woven into the daily fabric of life. End users won’t even necessarily be aware that they’re interacting with an AI system. They’ll be more apt to think, “Wow, that really works well now.” As time passes people will become accustomed, and perhaps desensitized, to more and better improvements.

Skeptical from a cost-benefit standpoint, companies have so far been slow to adopt the most advanced AI-type systems available. But that will change as such technology inevitably evolves from today’s applications targeted at specific tasks and problems to broader enterprise solutions. And businesses, more so than IT departments, will likely be the primary drivers.

That’s already the case now with respect to the relatively modest investments companies do make in what’s often referred to as intelligent automation, a spectrum with robotic process automation at one end and AI at the other. “There’s a difference between this technology spectrum and any other we’ve seen, in that it’s really the business driving it into IT,” Ernst & Young’s Weston Jones tells CFO.

The articles that comprise this special report (click on them below) collectively tell a compelling story about where AI is today and where it’ll likely go in the near future. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.

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