Original article published at The Market Mogul May 8, 2018.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the solution. What is the problem?” This conversation is representative of the pervasiveness of AI. Unnoticed, an AI revolution is upon us. Something has changed in last half decade to make this happen.

Student Becomes Master

Cat, the lion’s mentor in Indian folklore, had hardly finished teaching her student how to hunt when the lion pounced on her. She escaped by climbing a nearby tree, a trick she had not taught the lion. Like the popularity of this creation-creator story, events of AI matching or exceeding human performance are making big news. Last year AI beat top humans in poker, a strategic thinking game, where both the cards and bluffing matter. A similar feat was achieved in 2016 when a computer dethroned Lee Sedol, the world champion of go, a complex Chinese board game. Besides these shocking successes over humans in strategy and board games, there has been a significant improvement in the technical performance metrics of the machines. This is leading to breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles, visual recognition, natural language processing, lip reading, and many other fields, signalling the development of algorithms with skills superior to humans.

In the annual ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC), machines showcased dramatic progress, improving from an image recognition error rate of 28% in 2010 to less than 3% in 2016. The best human performance is about 5%. Deploying a new computational technique (Deep Convolutional Neural Net) in 2012 brought this marked improvement in image processing and set off an industry-wide boom. Similarly, both Microsoft and IBM increased the accuracy of ‘Speech Recognition on Switchboard’ from 85% in 2011 to 95% in 2017, equalling human performance. Advances in machine learning, pattern recognition, and a host of other technologies will enable autonomous cars without human drivers to drive on roads this year. Alphabet’s Waymo leads the pack of several self-driving car makers in the race.

Classical Versus Deep Learning AIs

The biological brain consists of two different but complementary cognitive systems, the rational (model based, programmed) and the intuitive (model-free, learning through experience). The understanding of how the mind selects between these modes and the interface between intuition and rational thought is beyond the current technology. In the classical approach, AI, and its subsets Machine Learning and Neural Networks, followed the rule-based (if-then) systems imitating the decision-making process of experts ignoring the intuitive part. For complex problems, it was difficult to encode rules and make available the requisite knowledge base. For almost sixty years classical AI had been languishing as human cognition is not based only on logic.

A new approach, based on continuous mathematics, was developed. In deep learning, the new name given to artificial neural networks, the classical logic-based method has been passed over in favour of experimental computation using continuous mathematics. This change has been possible due to the growing infrastructure of ubiquitous connectivity, exponentially increasing computing power, powerful algorithms, and big data sets.

Artificial neural networks, which mimic the biological brain, are used for mathematical modelling. The human brain is imitated using electronically simulated interconnected neurons stacked on the top of each other in layers. The hidden layers perform mathematical computations on inputs. Iterating through the data sets, the output gets generated via ‘back propagation’, using a technique called ‘gradient descent’, which changes the parameters to improve the model. Maybe stumbling on nature’s design, the process works very well perhaps because of imitating intuition as in the human brain.

Astonishing Results and Possible Futures

The results are so astounding that these cannot be explained even by creators of AI programmes. AI systems are like black boxes taking in questions on one side (“Should this autonomous vehicle accelerate or apply breaks on this yellow light? “What is the next move in this board or strategy game? “What are the objects in this image”) and giving out answers on the other side. It will be difficult to explain how the black box works, but it does work. In some situations, it will be difficult to use such an unpredictable, inscrutable, and unexplainable system. This method, using neural networks inspired by the human brain, requires tons of quality data to be useful compared to the very little data needed by humans. Another flaw in deep learning is its inflexibility in using experience learned in one case to help solve another. Humans can learn abstract concepts and apply them in different applications.

The algorithmic, or specialised, intelligence, known as narrow artificial intelligence (NAI), has existed for years and has now got some teeth. It is benefiting humankind in many ways but is also capable of causing large-scale damage to an increasingly digital and interconnected infrastructure. General artificial intelligence (GAI) is a general purpose human-level intelligence and is perhaps a decade away. While GAI can meet challenges such as climate change, disease, and other problems which humans are not able to solve, it will cause economic and cultural upheaval. GAI, undergoing recursive self-improvement, will give rise to a superintelligence, the third flavour of AI. Superintelligent AIs will radically outperform humans in every field and may pose an existential threat to humans. They could appear in the next few decades, or not at all.

Human intelligence is to be understood first before it can be created. With 20,000 AI research papers being published annually, enrolment in AI programmes and investment metrics rising northwards, humanity may be close to accidentally creating a general artificial intelligence.

Here at Komaya, we love keeping abreast of emerging technology and ways that it might help enhance the web presence of our client’s brands.

Here at Komaya, we strongly promote holistic living, balance, and synchronicity. These approaches to a happy and stress-managed life are well adapted from your personal life to your business career. It’s safe to say that when all the moving parts are optimized and working as they should, then the machine will run smoothly. But, what if we also managed to have all those working parts complement each other and elevate the machine as a whole? That’s what we are going to achieve here. Let’s buckle up and synergize our business by making our website, social media, and brick-and-mortar store work in tandem.

How can I make my Website, Social Media, and Brick-and-Mortar work together?

Continuity

Continuity is probably the easiest factor to achieve from the beginning, and the most fun to plan. It’s the first thing that customers subconsciously recognize when visiting all of your active platforms. What I mean by this, is that all your platforms need to use similar design elements and resemble each other.

Whether a customer walks into your store, visits your website, or is browsing your Instagram, they need to know that they are in the right place.

It’s always bad business practice if the customer is second guessing if they are looking at the right company. A simple way to achieve this is to choose your company’s signature colors. Make sure that the combination makes sense for your product or service and that you aren’t randomly selecting things you feel look good together. Blue may be your favorite color, but this is about your brand and not your personality. Be sure to consider that there are certain colors that make sense for certain concepts, that already trigger recognition with customers. For example, green is often used to symbolize something healthy or environmentally friendly. After you’ve selected the perfect colors, find their Pantone color match. Doing so ensures that each color has a specific code attached to it, and you’ll always be able to match your exact colors in the future, regardless of who you end up working with on your graphics or brand. Be sure to use the same decision-making process when it comes to shapes or motifs, and of course, your logo!!

Cross Promotion

Not everyone engages with your business in the same way. Some may find you on the internet first, others may wander into your store one sunny day. In whichever manner this first interaction is made, take the opportunity to show some of your other channels some love. If the customer comes into the store, hand them a business card and encourage them to post pictures on social media and tag you in them. (Hint: maybe provide an Insta-worthy scene just beckoning for the perfect selfie!)

If your customer sees your website first, provide pictures of the store and your products or representations of your service. If you sell items on your site, offer in-store pickup as an alternative to shipping so that the customer can save some money while you drive traffic back to your brick-and-mortar.

You should consider using consistent images across your website, social media channels, and in your storefront. You can also include a social media share button on each of these pictures.

Even if a potential customer doesn’t want to buy an item, they may think it’s cool enough to share it with their friends. Social media share-buttons have been a successful trend for many businesses and increase your marketing reach without you having to spend a dime.

Social Media cross-promotion can, unfortunately, be a little more complex, but fortunately– there’s an app for that! Most social media sites have been around long enough that they link with other platforms. You may have a Facebook page that will automatically share posts to Instagram and Twitter. It may be really tempting for you to set things to automatically post in this way, but unfortunately, it’s not the most professional way to do it. Many of these sites have different configurations. For example, Facebook has an unlimited character limit while Twitter caps you at 280 characters. Instagram’s preferred photo size is larger than that of Facebook So, what ends up happening is that your posts and pictures can be cut off, which is not good for anyone.

Our suggestion is to use a 3rd party coordinator. Many of them are free for the first couple of accounts added, and some charge a fee– but it’s well worth it for the convenience and scheduling across many platforms. They can even post to your Yelp account, LinkedIn, or your website. You can check out the popular sites: HootSuite, Sprout, Buffer, or Social Report. These coordinating websites allow you to predesign and schedule posts across all your channels but they do them separately in order to utilize the best metrics or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for each. Another benefit to using these platforms is that you can work on multiple posts at a time, so you can take care of a few days and then not touch it, giving you plenty of time to focus elsewhere. This allows you to not fall into a social-media rabbit hole and keeps you focused on all your areas of business in a balanced and holistic manner.

Universal Change and Maintenance

Lastly, it is important that whatever information, promotion, or event you want customers to know about is available everywhere. When you decide to run a sale, for instance, you don’t just put a “Sale” sign out in front of your store. Only people walking by would know about it! There is a process that needs to be built up across all platforms working together. First, the sign goes out in front of the store, and you mark your prices down both in-store and online. Next, you might create a banner for your website that promotes the sale and make it shareable. Take a picture of the sale sign or create a fun and complementary graphic for your social media linking people back your website, and so on. It is important to always add and remove information together because the worst thing that we can do is confuse our customers. Our purpose is to make things as easy and accessible as possible.

You now have the tools to make your business channels more productive than ever. Go forth and see how much smoother your machine will operate.