The AI Arms Race
If you’re responsible for a product or business that requires software to operate, and you’re not already investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence, you’re behind. Large tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook; and hundreds of startups like Pefin, and x.ai are collectively investing billions to develop machines that will assist and ultimately replace human agents. These machines will act as personal assistants, financial advisors, journalists, chauffeurs, travel agents, housekeepers, teachers, soldiers, etc.; and customer preference will be driven largely by how well the machines can anticipate and accommodate our needs — often even before being asked.
The days of computer & device manufacturers competing primarily on energy efficiency, speed, security, storage capacity, and size are coming to an end. Even the value of aesthetic design — a less tangible differentiator that has helped propel companies like Apple, Tesla, and Disney to the top of their industries — will soon diminish in the eyes of consumers. This isn’t to say that all of the attributes I mentioned won’t remain important considerations in product design; in most cases their importance will merely be replaced by one thing: a product’s intelligence.
As we design this new generation of products, the standard of intelligence shouldn’t necessarily be measured by how many facts can be recalled, or how efficiently a task can be completed. As consumers, we will be drawn to products that add value to our lives. Products with personality; products that have a deep respect for & understanding of our needs, and are capable of confidently & proactively addressing them. In order to deliver on this value, product teams need to invest in research that allows them to truly understand and empathize with their users. What are their goals? Their daily routines? What keeps them awake at night?
It is only through this understanding that truly beneficial intelligence can be designed—intelligence that consumers will value and embrace as elements of their daily routines. The advantage in the AI Arms Race will go to the teams that can identify and effectively solve their customer’s problems. The products that win won’t be the smartest, they’ll be the most indispensable.