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杰夫·贝佐斯: 亚马逊人工智能发展要分“三步走”

在今年的的股东信中,亚马逊首席执行官杰夫·贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos)用了几段话来解释该公司未来的人工智能(后文简称AI)布局规划。具体来说包括以下三个方面:

有形产品和moonshot(疯狂而难以实现的项目)、核心业务以及企业云。

贝佐斯写道:“如果你自己不愿意或不能尽快拥抱外部趋势,外部世界就会将你推入Day 2状态。如果你反对这些趋势,你可能正在与未来为敌。你需要拥抱它们,那样你也可以乘风而起。”

基础产品

这个范畴就是贝佐斯所谓的“机器学习实际应用”,没有AI支持,面向消费者的产品或服务就不可能成功。亚马逊便利店Amazon Go、Prime Air递送无人机以及虚拟个人助理Alexa都是如此。

尽管Amazon Go和Prime Air递送依然处于早期阶段,但Alexa已存在感爆棚,今年它没有出现在CES展览上,却依然独领风骚。很容易看到,亚马逊正在这个领域处于领先地位,因为Echo的发布实际上相当于发明了语音助理扬声器这种新产品。

核心业务

AI不仅仅限于无人机和虚拟助理,贝佐斯称AI将在其核心业务电子商务领域发挥着重要作用。该公司正利用AI预测产品需求、支持搜索排名、创建和推荐交易、探查欺诈以及翻译语言等。当然,还有亚马逊高度自动化的仓库,那里使用机器人加速处理和发货时间。

企业云

云计算是人们密切关注的领域。不过,亚马逊在该领域的主导地位很明显:该公司的收入是其最接近的竞争对手微软的5倍还多。除了能够支持大部分网络的S3存储空间,亚马逊还为开发人员提供了一些简单的工具,让开发者可以将亚马逊的人工智能算法整合到自己的应用程序中,以及让人工智能公司运行自己的算法。

对于亚马逊这样的供应商来说,云计算也是一种很好的营销工具,因为其他人在这个平台上所做的工作通常听起来同样令人印象深刻,而不需要供应商从事大量的修补和设计工作,才能让最终的产品发挥作用。贝索斯称,该公司的“预包装”人工智能算法有助于预测疾病,并估计农民农作物收成,无需掌握专业的机器学习技术。

贝索在股东信中总结AI部分时写道:“关注这一领域,还将有更多变化发生。”

Amazonians and investors alike, rest assured: Jeff Bezos knows artificial intelligence is a big deal.

The Amazon CEO took a few paragraphs in his annual shareholder letter to explain how the company is using AI throughout its business, having recognized and embraced the “external trend.” The letter itself focuses on the idea that Amazon is still in “Day 1,” still a startup that’s well aware that irrelevance and excruciating decline begins when you reach Day 2.

Bezos outlined three major categories that artificial intelligence falls into at the company: visible products and moonshots, core operations, and enterprise cloud.

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind,” Bezos writes.

Products and moonshots

This category is what Bezos calls a “practical application of machine learning,” consumer-facing products or services that wouldn’t be possible without AI. The Amazon Go grocery store fits in here, as well as Prime Air delivery drones, and of course, the company’s virtual personal assistant, Alexa.

While Amazon Go and Prime Air delivery are still in extremely early stages, Alexa has become the virtual assistant du jour—this year we think it won CES without even showing up. It’s easy to see Amazon as a leader here, since the Echo’s release practically invented the product category of voice-assistant speaker.

Beneath the surface

Artificial intelligence isn’t all drones and virtual assistants—Bezos says that a lot of the AI work within the company happens under the hood of its core business, e-commerce. The company uses artificial intelligence to predict product demand, power search rankings, create and recommend deals, detect fraud, and translate the site into other languages.

“Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type – quietly but meaningfully improving core operations,” Bezos says.

This also fails to mention Amazon’s highly-automated warehouses, which use robots to accelerate processing and shipping time.

The cloud

This is typically where people’s eyes start to glaze over. It’s hard to overstate Amazon’s dominance in the sector, though: the company earns more than 5 times the revenue of its nearest competitor, Microsoft. Alongside S3 storage that supports much of the web (and cripples much of the web when it fails), Amazon offers easy tools for developers to integrate Amazon’s artificial intelligence algorithms into their own applications, as well as servers for AI companies to run their own algorithms.

The cloud is also a great marketing tool for providers like Amazon, because the work that others are doing on the platform usually sounds very impressive, without the provider having to do much of the tinkering and design that makes the final product work. Bezos touts the company’s “pre-packaged” AI algorithms as helping predict disease and estimate crop yields for farmers, with “no machine learning expertise required.”

Capping AI’s section of the letter, Bezos says:

“Watch this space. Much more to come.”


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