Artificial Intelligence will be a key technology of the 21st century. We take a look at our portfolio companies and explain trends and use cases that will reshape our economy and society in the decades to come.
When James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in 1764, little did he know that his invention would change the world forever. Mechanized spinning was one of the core innovations that triggered the first wave of industrialization, which resulted in a significant increase in automation and manufacturing output.
Today, 256 years later, we are in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution — or “Industry 4.0” — which again will increase the level of automation. But what technologies will dominate, and which company will invent the Spinning Jenny of the 21st century?
In part #2 of our miniseries on Megatrends, we will take a look at Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Autonomous transportation with AI-powered drones
Transportation will look entirely different at the end of this century compared to the status quo. Already today, big tech is working on autonomous cars and drones that can deliver goods, take pictures, and transport human passengers.
The use of AI in transportation will gradually decrease the need for operator intervention, and supervision and the complexity of actions that vehicles can perform will significantly increase.
Our portfolio company Flytrex runs a drone-based delivery service in the suburbs of North Dakota and Iceland. Drones can carry up to 6.6 pounds (6–8 hamburgers) for a distance of 3.5 miles and back. The company’s success shows that there is demand for such a solution, as customers value convenience and low costs.
Drones can fly on autopilot on a programmed route, called waypoints, and perform certain actions. In the future, AI will enable drones to become more capable of performing more complex operations at scale. Instead of delivering hamburgers in a box, drones will then carry out international cargo flights and eventually also passenger flights. Watch the sky; drones will soon become the new normal.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA combines software robots (bots) and AI to automate workflows that were previously performed by human beings. In contrast to traditional workflow automation, where a developer programs software to perform certain tasks, RPA-bots observe a human while performing tasks and then simply repeat those exact same tasks.
Simply put: Instead of programming a bot, humans will train and teach it, enabling it to learn and expand its capabilities autonomously.
Ui Path, for example, uses bots to automate all kinds of business processes, from accounting to customer services and human resources. Their bots can take over every process that follows a repetitive routine — for example, insurance claims processing — by observing how humans perform the process steps. Once the bot has learned each process step, it will be able to take over and perform the entire process autonomously.
AI-based financial decision-making
While most automation focuses on routine processes, AI also plays an increasingly important role in automated decision-making. Wherever decisions are made based on data, AI can streamline the data ingestion and processing to build models without human intervention.
Take finance, for example. Many decisions regarding investments or loan-processing are purely based on financial data. Zest AI has developed an AI-based system that autonomously analyses credit scores, past payment behaviour, and cashflows to enable banks and other lenders to make a fast but precise lending decision. Instead of a bank employee manually analysing credit data, AI takes over the entire credit analysis, and a human only makes the final lending decision.
So, will AI be the new Spinning Jenny? Possibly. Elon Musk believes AI will become so powerful that he even calls it a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”
But we are not there yet. Before we arrive at a Matrix-like doomsday scenario, AI will provide us with many benefits. The start-ups above are just some examples of the gems that are already working on our automated future.