Continuous learning is essential for humans. Change is the essence of life and in order to survive we must continually learn and adapt. Without regular learning, we stagnate, wither and are ultimately abandoned in the wasteland of our society.
Machines in the past have escaped this need to learn in all but the most experimental environments. When the limits of their capabilities are challenged by changing circumstances or market acceptance, they are upgraded and replaced. It is the humans that are doing the learning and improvement and not the machines.
But more recently, in parallel with recent software advances, the value of machines that can learn and adapt is becoming more obvious. Jobs that were once thought to be impossible for machines are now firmly a reality. From Wall Street traders to bus drivers, intelligent machines are set to play a major role in our future, for better or worse.
Back to a more immediate and present reality. Websites and apps that learn. It has been common for many years for websites to remember personal details, display localised interfaces and contain personalised touches to make you feel warm and fuzzy and loved by the company.
Greater value can now be gained from software that learns and predicts your behaviour rather than simply remembering your favourite colour or preferred layout. This is a huge focus for Google search with the aim of providing more relevant search results for its users – you can read more about that here.
Another example of an app that learns is Netflix. Using a recommendation engine, Netflix is able to learn what kind of shows or movies are most likely to be of interest to you. By doing this, a user is more likely to use Netflix to watch the offered content rather than switching to a rival network. This reportedly saves Netflix $1 billion per year.
My prediction is that it won’t be long before artificial intelligence learning capabilities will filter down and become increasingly accessible for inclusion in websites and apps enabling many benefits for companies of all sizes.