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by Roxanna Coldiron

In the very near future, you could be working with a specialized shopping assistant that determines your needs before you’re even aware of them and orders your groceries for the week’s menu and that designer outfit you need for an upcoming dinner event — long before you get the reminder on your smartphone from your mobile calendar. Artificial intelligence, or A.I., technology continues to become smarter and smarter, relying on the algorithms that quantify our lives and predict our behavior. What used to be science fiction is now a very realistic possibility, and the beginnings of A.I. have already integrated into our daily routines.

What is artificial intelligence? A.I. refers to the “the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines,” as defined by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. Research in A.I. covers a variety of fields, including cognitive science, medicine, education, philosophy and ethics, robotics and the World Wide Web. Scientists uncover what makes computers work, how our bodies function, how technology and humanity can benefit each other and the ways in which computer technology can improve our lives. Artificial intelligence isn’t designed to replace us; instead, it can be used to help us focus on other pursuits and provide conveniences that make our lives safer and easier.

At the basis of artificial intelligence lies the algorithm. The correct algorithm can predict the likelihood of a heart attack and when it might occur, the consequences of a financial action and whether it would result in success or failure, and even the compatibility of two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together. But A.I. goes a step further in that it can learn and expand beyond its underlying algorithm until it predicts individualized outcomes.

For example, The Wall Street Journal recently reported on Humana’s use of “digital coaches” that help call center staff understand their customers better and change their response to calls in order to facilitate better customer conservations. The software can detect agitation in a customer’s voice and sends suggestions to the call center employee about how to modify their behavior to keep the customer calm and satisfy the customer’s concerns. Data from 100,000 calls were fed into the program to analyze customer interactions and associated outcomes, and now Humana call center employees have a better tool for conducting their phone calls.

Our finances can also benefit from financial coaching that has been informed by A.I. analysis. Wouldn’t it be great to know which actions you should take to ensure that you have a large retirement fund before you reach your 70s? Or how about being able to pay off student loans in a shorter amount of time without having to sacrifice your other financial goals? The good news is: This is possible right now.

Artificial intelligence provides the opportunity to look at the Bigger Picture. Financial coaches at PeopleJoy, for example, are human beings who have the tools to understand finances from a panoramic perspective based on the behavioral blueprint of thousands of real people. Factors that contribute to a behavioral blueprint include age, marital status, spending habits, savings, debt, region of the country, occupation and so much more. It takes the guess work out of managing finances.

Thus, financial coaches can recognize patterns in your finances. This means that coaches can predict when certain events, such as defaulting on a loan or under-investing in a retirement plan, will occur. They can also see what outcome a certain action might have and advise accordingly. You can know your real-time financial status and get individualized advice on improving your financial well-being. With a financial coach, you don’t have to worry about your decisions because those decisions are based on proven mathematical models and predictive technology. A.I. will probably never replace a financial coach, but it can certainly empower them to give you the best advice possible.

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