Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Last month, we reported on the silent run-up to the age of artificial intelligence, whose green shoots grow without fanfare only to flower a decade or two in the future.

But, but, but: As we reported yesterday, these quiet, behind-the-scenes developments are transforming modern work now.

"We don’t call them AI because they’re already here," says Berkeley’s Ken Goldberg, a robotics expert who directs the university's People and Robots Initiative.

  • If one dimension of the far-off AI future is autonomous vehicles, we’re living in its first stage, the age of smart cruise control: tools that use basic machine learning to take on just part of a job.
  • This is also the world of smart speakers and navigation apps like Waze that use human input — everyday technologies that ease specific tasks, but can’t really do anything on their own.

In business and consumer tech, this early wave of AI helpers is already ubiquitous.

  • Among the everyday systems driven by AI and human input: spam filtering, machine translation, search, and book and movie recommendations.
  • Salesforce uses machine learning to identify promising leads based on the outcome of previous interactions, a spokesperson says. It can also predict the likelihood of losing a customer based on signals about how they use a company’s services.
  • Sprint uses Adobe’s AI platform to dig through troves of customer data and find potentially receptive groups of people to target with marketing, an Adobe spokesperson tells Axios.
  • Even T.G.I. Friday’s has automated basic tasks ranging from staff scheduling to ingredient ordering and waste management, as we reported last week.

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