It’s The Little Things: Big AI for big problems and Little AI for everything else

Maya Mikhailov

Image courtesy of TechCrunch. March, 2021

It’s the little things. Like when you wake up to find your phone fully charged, for once. Or when you head downstairs in a rush, in need of your car keys and they were exactly where they were supposed to be. Those are all wins; little problems solved that made your everyday life a little smoother, a little bit more efficient, a little bit better.

The little things.

But when most of us talk and think about AI, we only think BIG. We watch dancing robots on YouTube, read about protein folding in science blogs, switch on our car’s auto-pilot mode, download “Not Hotdog” app, or discuss how a blue box schooled Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! We think about all those insanely hard problems that only AI with its extraordinary data-crunching capabilities can address. This is BIG AI: Using terabytes of data to solve (or create, depending on who you ask) all the biggest problems in the world.  But in our rush to radically change everything, we forget about the tons of little problems we face and solve every day. We might want to rebuild our homes with the latest technology, but first…we have to find where we left our damn car keys.

That is where Little AI comes in. We’re surrounded by basic everyday problems, the ones it wouldn’t even occur to us to use AI or even machine learning to solve them. BIG AI has taught us that we need big datasets, big models (that demand big teams, and big consulting fees…), not to mention an endless appetite for compute time, to solve the enormous problems.

Our world is filled with Little AI problems. That doesn’t mean Little AI solutions are trivial  – it means that designing and implementing them simply isn’t hard.  Little AI works on common, less complicated problems: the ideal call to action on a home page; the best offer to show a customer to lift conversion; helping determine the fulfillment center to process an order or even the best time of day and the best channel to communicate with a customer.  Right now, we solve those everyday pain points using decision trees, conditional logic, manually-driven personalization, or even A/B testing.

All those little pain points can lead to big problems or big efficiencies if solved with a Little AI.  Little AI uses machine learning to discover and implement the best decision faster and better than any traditional Agile process. So the next time you read about some remarkable new discovery made possible by AI, look around and consider the millions of other everyday problems that AI could make better. It’s the little things. And they’re everywhere.

Oh, there are your car keys, exactly where you left them…in the car.

Yes, help me unlock the power to make better decisions.

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