The power of Artificial Intelligence to transform business and society is staggering. Theories vary about how far-reaching its impacts will be, but it is clear that human ingenuity and creativity are being augmented in ways that hardly seemed possible less than a decade ago. Across every industry, and in every sector of the economy, businesses are beginning to integrate AI-powered solutions that are automating away inefficiencies and opening new doors to remarkable innovations.

While nobody can predict where AI will take us, that doesn’t stop analysts from trying to quantify the growth of AI.  The estimate are all over the place:

  • Research firm Markets and Markets conservatively estimates the AI market will grow to more than $5 billion by 2020, given the rising adoption of machine learning and natural language processing technologies in businesses.
  • Accenture goes much further, predicting that Artificial Intelligence will double gross value added to economies around the world and that it will increase labor productivity by up to 40%.
  • Gartner’s research indicates that more than 6 billion devices will actively request AI support by 2018

The question is no longer “if” industry will adopt and implement artificial intelligence strategies and solutions, the question is “when.” Today, this is what differentiates leading brands from the rest—forward-thinking companies are getting ahead of these changes now, and are actively seeking relevant and available tools and technologies, and the talent to build, develop, maintain, and deploy these systems.

Sebastian Thrun—our founder at Udacity, as well as a founder of Google X, and a pivotal figure in the growth of AI and Self-Driving Car technologies—spoke recently to The New Yorker, about the ways that AI will impact the world—what it will automate, what it will create—and specifically addressed concerns about a changing economic landscape in the face of increasing automation:

“Did industrial farming eliminate some forms of farming? Absolutely, but it amplified our capacity to produce agricultural goods. Not all of this was good, but it allowed us to feed more people. The industrial revolution amplified the power of human muscle. When you use a phone, you amplify the power of human speech. You cannot shout from New York to California, and yet this rectangular device in your hand allows the human voice to be transmitted across three thousand miles. Did the phone replace the human voice? No, the phone is an augmentation device.”

He goes on to point out that this idea of AI augmenting human ability is a critical concept for businesses seeking to position themselves for success in an AI-powered world:

“The cognitive revolution will allow computers to amplify the capacity of the human mind in the same manner. Just as machines made human muscles a thousand times stronger, machines will make the human brain a thousand times more powerful.”

Forward-thinking companies and their workforces should be poised to enter an era of incredibly rapid innovation—even faster changes lay ahead than what we’ve seen in recent decades. The opportunity is vast to eliminate inefficiencies, turbocharge productivity, and reconfigure the way we build products and services.

Much of this change is still being projected, but for those organizations prescient enough to begin their transformations now, this future is already here.

At Udacity, we see lots of demand from the enterprise for education around AI. We’ll be sharing some of our learnings at the Velocity Network in NYC in May 25 on AI and Machine Learning: Enabling Your Team With The Right Tools.

(Join us to learn more about this future-shaping technology, and how your company can start embracing it today by registering here).