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AI Trends in 2021 for You

By Susan Gonzales and Zachary Solomon

For years, artificial intelligence technology has been improving and spreading at astronomical rates — and 2021 won’t be an exception. Last year, as so much more of the world moved online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, AI made great strides to keep up. According to tech publications and other online resources, there are a few AI trends we can expect to see more of this year. We’ve put together a list to help explain how these trends and other key AI advancements will impact our lives in 2021.

Criminal Justice

One of the biggest challenges in law enforcement is the sheer quantity of data floating around. Individual cases rack up incalculable amounts of information. But if there’s anything we know that artificial intelligence is capable of, it’s analyzing big data. In 2021, look for more AI-assisted learning tools that can automatically analyze and interpret data and make decisions or recommendations based on its findings. The other side of this technology, however, is the increased risk that AI could unintentionally identify the wrong suspects. AI can be racially biased as a result of unconscious biases held by its engineers. In 2021, with a bigger call for ethical oversight over AI, we can hope that AI can be used for good without the associated risk of misidentification.

Customer Support

Artificial intelligence has been taking over for human customer service representatives for some time now. Chatbots, otherwise known as “conversational AI,” will continue to get smarter and more effective at responding to customers’ and clients’ needs. Chatbots are also used for “Live Chats” online. Ever visit your bank’s website and have a popup appear asking if you need help? That’s a chatbot. You may feel like you are communicating with a person but chances are you are not. You’ll see more chatbots this year and they’ll be better than ever.

Disease Detection

The health care and medicine industries have already benefited enormously from advances in AI. Look for that to keep up in 2021. AI is already significantly lowering the number of misdiagnoses and human error in health care. It’s also increasing early detection rates for cancer. AI is also being used to examine real-time emergency medical and ambulance data, looking for abnormalities or items that human staff may have missed.

Education

Even though 2021 may see the end of the Covid-19 pandemic (fingers crossed), there’s a good chance that classroom life won’t return to normal right away. In fact, many schools may be seeing benefits to the hybrid model. AI will continue to play a role in making virtual education more accessible for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. AI is already used to help educators with education management systems. We’ll see more of this in 2021.

Employment

AI systems have been created to help companies identify candidates based on specific criteria such as gender identity, ethnic background, education level, and so forth. Companies like Eightfold AI are using deep-learning, the process of teaching a machine to think like a human, to make data-driven decisions throughout the hiring process. We can expect that this technology will spread throughout the entire business sector — big and small businesses alike.

Ethical AI

Much of AI to date has been created behind closed doors by AI engineers who tend to be unrepresentative of all communities who use technology. This has resulted in the creation of AI with limited perspectives. The need for ethical oversight and regulation in the world of artificial intelligence has gained momentum and we are sure to see movement in 2021. Unconscious biases, racism, prejudice of any stripe — these are all things that show up in AI algorithms since they, too, show up in ourselves. As time goes on, the need for more diverse engineers to create more inclusive AI is becoming increasingly apparent. We’ll see more regulations put in place in AI. We hope to see more people providing different perspectives when the algorithms are created to make AI work for us.

Finance

Like other industries, the finance sector has access to more data than ever before, and it will need artificial intelligence tools to make heads or tails of it. Banks and other financial institutions will continue using AI-powered data analytics to personalize clients’ banking experiences, to make better recommendations, and to help clients save money. In the recent past, being denied a loan because of your skin color has been pretty common — and AI has only perpetuated this major problem. If you were found ineligible for a loan because you were a member of a certain community, that was a failure of AI regulation. Look for better oversight as ethics become more valued in the world of AI.

Facial Recognition

Automatic facial recognition tools will become more widespread. This also means that facial recognition errors may become more widespread, too, incorrectly identifying people, and leading to more erroneous arrests. AI’s role in facial recognition has already proven to be problematic. The algorithms — computer language that tells the technology what decisions to make — are generally having a harder time identifying people of color. Unconscious biases take place because few people of color are creating the algorithms. But an increased pressure to build more ethical AI may counteract this.

Housing

Many of the technologies used in housing and financial services are not fair for women and people of color, and yet they impact every area of our lives. AI tools determine whether people can get loans or how much they will pay for the funds. The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the voice of fair housing. NFHA works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.

Marketing

AI will continue to improve its ability to turn large amounts of data into personalized suggestions and recommendations for users. Simply think of the last time you ordered on Amazon. Shopping has become much easier due to AI. With unprecedented amounts of data available, AI can learn and change, can analyze past spending habits and interact with users in a tailored, unique way. You’ll see better recommendations for yourself. AI tools for businesses will improve, too, possibly improving revenue.

Pandemic Prevention

AI algorithms are already being developed to predict future pandemics more accurately. There is an enormous demand for this sort of technology given the wholescale devastation caused by Covid-19. Indeed, even facial recognition technology might help mitigate the spread of future viruses, enabling contactless travel through depots and airports. If you don’t have to take out your ID, there are fewer instances of close contact.

Policy

Beginning in 2021, the U.S. government will attempt to pass a federal budget that increases government funding for AI. For the first time ever, the U.S. will prioritize AI development. Look for a national strategy that addresses AI ethics, research, national security, and labor and automation.

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