Abta17: Machine learning will bring ‘fundamental changes’

Abta17: Machine learning will bring ‘fundamental changes’

Artificial intelligence will bring “fundamental change” to the travel sector in the next five to 10 years.

That is the view of Euan Cameron, artificial intelligence (AI) leader at business consultancy PwC, who told The Travel Convention in the Azores: “You don’t need a fully automated device to change the way your business works.

“AI or machine learning will bring fundamental changes to most industries and functions.”

Cameron warned: “There will be a period of greater disruption, jobs will change, inequality will increase without intervention, individuals and society will have to re-skill.”

But he also promised “growth in productivity, automation and augmentation” and argued: “Teach kids creativity and emotional intelligence, not just technology.”

Cameron identified three levels of AI – ‘assistance’, ‘augmentation’ and ‘autonomous’ behaviour – and illustrated his point with the example of AI analysis of a chest X-ray.

He explained: “AI could assist an experienced chest doctor to diagnose TB, or augment the diagnosis of a less-experienced doctor, or make an autonomous diagnosis if a doctor was not available.”

AI’s uses will include targeting, process automation, risk prediction, asset utilisation, forecasting, pricing and logistics, he said.

But Cameron suggested its uses will broadly fall into three categories – customer understanding, prediction and optimisation.

He said: “AI all starts with data. But you would be surprised how many businesses don’t understand that.

“When you combine data, it is like a recipe – you need to control the secret sauce. Data on its own is not much use – you need insight and power [to use it].

“But first you need to know the data is what it purports to be. You would be amazed at the number of times the [supposed] data is not there.”

Then, he said: “You need to ask the right questions and interpret the answers in an intelligent and sceptical way.”

For that, he said: “You need to recruit the right people. There is too much temptation to view this as magic.”

Cameron pointed out: “The maths that underpins AI has been around for hundreds of years.”

He told the Convention: “People say when you’re in a revolution you don’t realise. In five to 10 years we’ll realise things have changed a lot.”

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