Artificial intelligence: an evolution or a revolution?

Jody Kochansky, Head of BlackRock's Aladdin Product Group, talks about the impact of artificial intelligence on investing and the financial industry overall.

You might be waiting for the moment when artificial intelligence (AI) will appear suddenly and transform life as you know it. The fact is, AI is already here.

AI has already started to dramatically change how we interact with technology, from the phone in your hand, to the financial models we at BlackRock build to better serve our clients. You just may not know it.

AI was born out of the natural progression of technology that dates back to the 1970s. This steady march has accelerated in recent years by unprecedented access to masses of data and improved computing power—the two ingredients necessary for AI to scale.

To truly understand AI, it’s necessary to look beyond the headlines, beyond the hype—and into the technology we use every day. These capabilities are adding a tremendous amount of efficiencies and the ability to discover patterns and trends that were previously undetectable.

Photo recognition provides a useful example. If you upload a picture of a dog, AI will not just identify the dog, but in most cases it can also identify the breed. The kicker is that AI can now distinguish a husky from a malamute with greater accuracy than a human, and at unprecedented scale, so that anyone with a phone now has domain knowledge they never had before.

Impact on investing

This democratization of technology is taking place across industries, including financial services, where the potential for AI has never been greater.

At BlackRock, for example, AI is woven into the fabric of nearly everything we do: from improving efficiencies in our operational processes, to helping our clients invest in the marketplace, to better understanding our clients and their investment preferences.

We also use technology with AI embedded to bring investment capabilities to the masses, providing investors access to analytics previously only available to large institutional clients. Machine learning, natural language processing and scientific data visualization are all integrated into our investment process to better meet our clients’ needs and improve investment performance.

AI is making the process of investing smarter, cheaper and better for investors—even without them knowing it.

Companies that don’t embrace AI will suffer the same fate as those before them that rejected the pace of technological change. AI is the way technology itself is moving, and it cannot be stopped. It will increasingly become embedded into our daily routines.

In that sense, AI might change life as you know it after all. But remember, it’s an evolution, not a revolution, that has brought us this far.

Jody Kochansky is the Head of BlackRock’s Aladdin Product Group. He contributed to this article.

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