The second wave of AI and how it applies to your business

Robot writing on a whiteboard
Lisa Portolan
Tue 17 Sep

For many people Artificial Intelligence (AI) is still a far-flung concept discussed in film and fiction. It seems distant, improbable, something relegated to the land of I Am Robot – a future of holograms, and robot housekeepers – nice to cogitate about but not something which is tangible and realistic. In fact, AI is alive and well, present at many layers of business, operative in anmultitude of transactions that we have been conducting on a daily basis. Theorists hypothesize that there are 3 to 4 (depending on the theorist) waves of AI and we are currently in wave 2. Here’s the low-down for those of you who need a quick introductory lesson to AI and how it works for your business. 

1. Wave 1 – “Rule-based”

This relates to rule-based AI systems. Essentially, we teach the system the rules, which are then applied. In practise you might experience this when you deal with a chat-bot, for example you might be on a Government department website seeking information, rather than navigating through the information, you can type in a question using the chat-bot, which will speedily respond to you and provide a link or information relevant to your situation. This chat-bot is an example of first wave AI – a series of rules have been fed into the bot, as well as often complex decision trees, the bot uses to deploy an answer to the customer. A quick, effective way to enhance customer satisfaction and retention, as well as drive down face-to-face and over the phone interactions. 

2. Wave 2 – “Machine-based learning”

The second wave refers to machine-based learning, whereas the AI system gathers statistical-learning, clustering information together, classifying it and then predicting next moves. The second wave is currently upon us, and provides opportunities for marketers, business owners, and government agencies to create highly-personalised consumer experiences. Utilising wave 2 AI means you could be gaining a deeper understanding of your customers, and their decision-making processes and employing content marketing in a more effective manner. 

3. Wave 3 – “Intelligent Machines”

The third wave of AI relates more to the I Am Robotvision you might have had in mind. The third wave will involve “intelligent machines” that will be able to understand and recognise the world and interact with it. A high level of cognitive involvement is required. As Kai-Fu Lee writes in Fortune, “The third wave of artificial intelligence – call it “perception A.I.” – gets an upgrade with eyes, ears, and myriad other senses collecting new data that was never before captured.” Wave 3 and 4 are often collapsed into one, with wave 4 becoming an evolved version of the former, where A.I. can genuinely sense and respond to the world. 


Whilst the term AI was minted at Dartmouth in 1956, the progress has been slowly going, with it only becoming a hyper-present reality in the last 10 years. From Siri, to Alexa, to Google Home, to government chatbots you have most definitely interacted with AI. Celebrated feminist, Donna J. Haraway wrote the Cyborg Manifesto back in 1985, declaring that we had far surpassed the rigid rules which separated us from “human” to “animal” to ”machine”, she wrote, “…our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated by hybrids of machine and organisms; in short we are cyborgs.” 

And whilst you still might be sceptical of the AI revolution and the level of your cyborg-ness, as a business owner, entrepreneur, or innovator, up-skilling in the AI space is essential to keep ahead of the tide and also to drive practical solutions around understanding your customer better.