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Artificial Intuition Wants to Guide Business Decisions. Can It Improve on ‘Going With Your Gut’?

Silicon Valley startup Node says it has created the next wave of artificial intelligence, which it calls artificial intuition.Silicon Valley startup Node says it has created the next wave of artificial intelligence, which it calls artificial intuition.
Silicon Valley startup Node says it has created the next wave of artificial intelligence, which it calls artificial intuition.

Gut feelings aren't always correct, but ask any business leader how they make decisions, and intuition almost always plays a role—even in the age of advanced analytics.

Positioning itself as a tool of the times, Node, a San Francisco based startup founded by an ex-Google employee, announced Thursday what it calls the next wave of artificial intelligence: artificial intuition.

Node founder and CEO Falon Fatemi says her team has been able to teach a computer the uniquely human sensation of having a hunch. Not only that, but she says that computer-programmed gut feelings can help business leaders make better decisions about the future, even predicting when an employee is looking for a new job.

Fortune talked to Fatemi about artificial intuition and whether a computer can be more in touch with its intuition than humans.

Fortune: When humans have a hunch, it's usually based on past experiences. How can you bring artificial intuition into a business and teach it the same wisdom that humans who have worked there for years already have?

Fatemi: It is kind of like how our human brains can analyze a lot of different points of information, but this thing can do it at scale, learn from those outcomes, and then drive predictions. It just gets smarter and better over time.

All that it requires is a set of examples of people or companies that represent the outcome that you care about. That number of examples can help the system pick up enough of a predictive sniff to then build a model and be able to generate predictions of a very high accuracy. Artificial intelligence does not require you to try and define what "best" means. It figures it out by just looking at a set of examples and analyzing that data in an autonomous fashion.

Human intuition isn't always accurate. Why should people listen to a computer's gut feeling?

The way to think about artificial intuition is like this: You use your intuition every day to make decisions, right? Whether you should take that interview, what you should eat for dinner, whether you should set up two friends on a blind date. You're using your intuition in all of these situations, but the context of the situation determines which decision you make, and what factors drive that decision. Just like your personal intuition evolves and improves over time, Node's AI learns from the outcomes it drives to get better—not just for each use-case, but for each company and each user that leverages the platform.

What are some ways businesses can lean on artificial intuition to help them make decisions? What can they learn from it?

Artificial intuition makes intelligent decisions that are unique to each application, user, and use-case that's Node-powered. So for example, who your next customer is likely to be; being able to have the Node system be able to show you which of your prospects are likely to result in that next big deal or opportunity; or which employee is likely to leave their job.

As a manager, it's really important to know if a key employee might be leaving the job. You'd want to know that today so that you could do something today to prevent that outcome from happening, or perhaps which new start-up that you should invest in.

You have been testing this with some customers. What have you learned from the results?

What we've seen, from a business outcomes perspective, is the system is not only able to predict accurately and find more prospects—such as those best prospects that are likely to convert very quickly—but the system has actually been able to navigate and identify new markets of opportunity that were previously untapped by those customers using traditional heuristics-based methods. And that's the power of this technology. It essentially turns data into decisions—both the context-specific that it's analyzing within an application, and also learning from the intuition that the end-users have as to where they're most successful.

You're in the business of making predictions. How do you see companies using artificial intuition in the future?

We're in a situation where enterprises need to innovate or die. The next wave of big tech companies are all going to be AI-first, both in terms of their products and their core DNA. For the organizations that frankly cannot keep up because they built legacy system on top of legacy system, and their ability to adapt is frankly near impossible—they're going to spend millions of dollars and years just trying to engage in this talent war.

What we are doing is we are democratizing the ability for all of these companies with their existing resources. Any engineer can [use Node] to build a cutting-edge prediction model around the business outcomes that their applications were initially built to drive.

We are already used to using artificially intelligent assistants, like Siri and Alexa. Do you envision a future where artificial intuition might also help us make decisions or warn us about something in our personal lives?

The next wave of innovation is going to come from the enterprise. What that's going to mean is that in the future, everyone should have their own artificial intuition agent whose job is to identify opportunities to you and put those in front of you before you even know to search for them. Whether it's "here's the next book you should read that is going to change your life" or "here is the next job opportunity you should take a look at," I think that's longer term where this can go, and really empower all of us.

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