By Henrik Christensen, PhD, Qualcomm Chancellor’s Chair in Robot Systems, Director Contextual Robotics, UC San Diego

For some, investing in artificial intelligence feels like banking on the unknown. The concepts behind AI can range from sounding futuristic to downright fictional. And yet, when you break down AI and explore the core technologies that drive it, look at what they are delivering today, and then consider what they are capable of delivering tomorrow, it’s suddenly quite easy to grasp how AI is changing the world around us. It is these facts that make investing in AI a not-to-be-missed investment opportunity.

Back in 2009, I was the main person behind the formulation of the US National Strategy for Robotics. At the time, as the strategy worked its way through Congress and to the White House, the conversation about why robotics mattered was an easy one. In the key areas of application—healthcare, defense, manufacturing, and logistics—it was simple to understand the physical applications of robotics in the real world. And yet, it was clear even then that robotics was somewhat limited in its application because, by its nature, robotics is restricted to interactions with the physical world.

AI Is a Completely Different Story

Since 2009, our world has been fully transformed by one thing: Big Data. AI enables us to glean value from masses of information by finding patterns within the data to elevate the decision-making process, often exponentially. The result is a new wave of AI-driven decision-making that is adding value in nearly every aspect of our lives. AI is helping retailers make better customer recommendations, customize their offerings, and improve product design, delivery, and desirability. AI is helping medical professionals save lives by enabling them to diagnose and treat diseases in the earliest stages—often before symptoms occur—and compare millions of test results to quickly identify effective treatments. On Wall Street, AI is helping fund managers find the best opportunities, using data to quickly analyze everything from macroeconomic and statistical models to industry and geographical trends. AI is giving lawyers and judges the ability to sift through information at lightning speed to make better, more informed decisions. In the oil and gas industry, AI is making it possible to drill deeper, improve rig safety, and even identify system failures before they create mechanical failures that can threaten workers and the environment.