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Oliver Hedgepeth, professor of logistics at the American Military University Online, discusses the evolution of artificial intelligence, to the point where it has become omnipresent in the world of logistics management.
Hedgepeth’s extensive experience in the field of AI includes his role as founding director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics. AI, he says, “is everywhere today,” in both the military and civilian worlds. In the case of the latter, it directs activities in a wide variety of industries and applications, but has proved to be of particular value in logistics. Today, the technology can track the origin and provenance of all the raw materials and components that go into something like a smartphone, while helping to direct the flow of product all the way to the end customer.
AI is central, for example, to the everyday operations of Amazon.com, which employs it for everything from online ordering to order fulfillment within the warehouse to final delivery. In fact, says Hedgepeth, AI today is necessary in order to make sense of the massive amounts of data generated by both e-commerce and traditional retailers — far too much for humans to parse and analyze.
Questions often arise about the ultimate role of humans in an industry dominated by AI, especially when the rationale behind the conclusions of a complex AI-driven system are unclear to the human user. “You don’t have to worry about that,” says Hedgepeth, citing estimates that the technology is still as much as 50 years away from functioning without the need for human judgment and intervention. “AI is now strictly prescriptive,” he explains, noting that it’s designed to solve discrete problems and doesn’t mirror the complexity of the human brain’s thought processes.
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