In one sense, most intelligence is artificial. Human’s didn’t evolve to understand calculus or design computer chips – those skills are a very recent addition to our abilities. While they are useful, they are not essential to the ongoing survival of humanity. Many species get by without calculus and are very successful nonetheless. The robots and algorithms we create are no less, and no more, effective or intelligent because they use silicon-based technologies rather than carbon-based. It can help to think of machines as having SI rather than AI; Specialized Intelligence rather than Artificial Intelligence. Many AI systems have very specific skills, in well-defined areas. Cars can be automated to drive themselves, but we use a different computer system to manage a heart monitor in a hospital or sew stitches during surgery. Specialized intelligence, like specialized tools, has always been of assistance to humans and other animals in achieving their goals. An algorithm that can optimize supply chain logistics to cut costs and reduce food wastage is no more, or less, an effective tool than the stick a chimpanzee might use to fish for termites. It’s just a matter of scale. The idea is the same: build a tool that is more efficient than what we currently have. With the development of more powerful computers, and the ease of accessing their power using cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, AI increasingly becomes an area of opportunity for businesses. For example, the Microsoft Bot Framework enables you to build intelligent bots that interact naturally on multiple platforms. The addition of intelligent features such as image processing is made possible through Azure Cognitive Services. Microsoft uses AI in other products too – you may have already spoken with the Cortana assistant in Windows 10, for example. Further, Microsoft uses AI to keep its services secure – intelligent algorithms analyze the millions of logons per day across its services looking for suspicious activity. If a logon attempt looks suspicious, the system can automatically request additonal forms of verification before authenticating the logon. A good indicator of just how much Microsoft is committed to AI can be found in the latest addition to the Microsoft Professional Program. It includes ten AI-related courses that anyone can take for free. They are, in fact, the same courses that Microsoft uses to help a member of their own staff get started with AI. Why not check them out and explore some of the many new benefits of specialized intelligence?