Whatever happened to artificial intelligence?

At a recent business analytics event, Lennart Frantzell demonstrated how (at least at a practical level) there has been a shift in business computing from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Business Analytics:

Using a healthcare example, Lennart explained how 20 years ago AI was used to form a diagnostic method for treating snakebites in Australia. The approach was to look at the cognitive process doctors go through when treating snakebites and build a system of complex algorithms to mimic this process. The emphasis was on the algorithm – not the underlying dataset. Any sub-optimal decisions made by doctors (say as a result of bias in their individual experience) would also reflected in the system.

Fast forward 20 years. In order to treat HIV in Ethiopia, business analytics is being used to crawl over 41,000 HIV treatment histories. The EuResist system takes data from a new patient and matches this against patients who have been successfully treated in the past, so determining the most appropriate treatment. The treatment consists of a cocktail of drugs, in which the proportion of each drug in the cocktail can affect how successful the treatment will be. This obviously adds a layer of complexity to determining the ideal solution. What success are they seeing on this project? Over 78% accuracy, outperforming 9 out of 10 human experts. 

The key difference here compared to the snakebite project is the focus on data. The EuResist project pulls data from disparate databases into a flexible DB2 platform that can be analyzed using business analytics. The algorithms are simpler than those used in AI, but the results can be impressive because the reliance is on exposing trends in the data.

The separation of the algorithms and the data also makes it easier to create products that can be implemented with minimal customization, compared to large AI systems that need to be custom-built. Eg. the underlying technology and methodology for treating HIV in Ethiopia can be applied to looking at Asthma in Western Europe.

As we continue to produce more data (just take a look at the 389,000 datasets the US government makes publicly available), business analytics can play a significant role in turning this data into insight and solve problems that were previously out of the reach of artificial intelligence systems.

See more on this business analytics presentation.

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