22 July 2019
Artificial Intelligence is increasingly prevalent in our lives, from Sat-Navs to smartphones, and yet do many of us even consider “what is AI?” and indeed “what isn’t AI”? I observed an example of this whilst enjoying strawberries and cream at Wimbledon last week: I overheard a young questioner enquiring – presumably of a parent – whether Hawkeye uses AI to tell whether a tennis ball is “in” or “out”. The response was “it uses cameras, not AI”; which got me thinking – is that right?
LCP has always used a lot of computing power for our mathematical models, of insurance policies, pension schemes, and the like. It will come as no surprise that those tools are increasingly including AI technology. As such, what “is” and what “isn’t” a use of AI has been a minor debate within the firm. Further as actuaries, we wanted the sub-classifications such as “Machine Learning” and “Deep Learning” to be defined too!
So, let’s start with an LCP example; we have developed a tool for helping football clubs select which player to buy (or sell) using AI. It’s an example of AI because it uses clever mathematical techniques – and lots of data points to adapt its decisions based on each week of data. However, it doesn’t use a Neural Network, so it’s not Deep Learning. It’s currently in use by a growing number of football clubs to augment their scouting team.
Another example has been developed by our Energy Consulting practice, to predict future energy prices. This does use a Neural Network and can be considered a “Deep Learning” AI system.
But what about Hawkeye? Well, it does use cameras, but the ball is generally moving too fast to “see” if it is “in” or “out”. As such, a statistical model is used within the system, based on the inputs provided by the cameras, to decide – on the basis of probability – where the ball was when it touched down. Given the involvement of multiple input into a probabilistic model, I would call this an “AI System”. However, as there is no unique definition of what AI is, I wouldn’t go as far as saying the parent was wrong to claim Hawkeye wasn’t AI!
In my opinion, AI will continue to evolve and to have greater presence in our lives going forward – just last week it was announced that AI can even play Poker better than the best professionals – which means we should keep a close eye on what is, and what is not AI.