Recurring headlines hype artificial intelligence as a technology that never really delivered on its promises. Is that true? Go beyond the AI hype cycle with Brighterion Head Sudhir Jha to learn how AI and deep learning have evolved and how they are being used to improve (and save) lives.

Despite headlines that artificial intelligence has never delivered in the 30 or 40 years it’s been around, AI is being used in ingenious ways that are both helpful and beneficial. In an interview with Karen Webster of PYMNTS, Sudhir Jha discussed the shift from an AI hype cycle to acceptance of AI in many applications.

Sudhir explains that a handful of companies could see the promise of AI and used it to fundamentally change their businesses. “If you think about Netflix, Google, Facebook and Amazon, without AI, there was no way they could scale in that short amount of time,” Sudhir says. “Netflix would not be able to serve millions and millions of titles and allow me to browse through that.”

Consider that there are 4,000 titles on Netflix, and millions of books and consumer items on Amazon, and it’s easy to see his point. He compares this to browsing bookshelves and shops where you can see what’s on offer.

But it’s more than product availability. Sudhir says AI was fundamental to how those companies were able to scale—not just build the business but scale the business. Suddenly other businesses realized they would have to do the same thing in order to compete. They could no longer rely on spreadsheet-based computation because that would not scale to the new world.

Demand for AI education moves beyond computer science

Sudhir sees business leaders taking the first steps, quickly seeing the promise and true ROI of AI in their businesses. “And of course, as we’ve seen, as more adoption happens, more money comes in and more people get trained. Now almost every university in the world that teaches business also teaches data science. There is demand for these universities to train these people. So, as every part of the ecosystem grows, it’s helping make AI more real.”

Sudhir has worked in the AI field for over a decade and finds it a bit surprising that enterprises outside of the big four discussed above have taken so long to adopt.

“I would say in the last few years is when I’ve really seen the momentum of going from experimentation to real deployment of AI outside of the small handful of technology companies. It surprised me how long it took, but then it also surprised me how quickly it turned around,” Sudhir says.

AI and deep learning haven “taken off”

Sudhir reflects that it took a while for people to realize the benefits of mobile phones and the Internet, “then the floodgates opened and everybody jumped on board.” He believes the same is happening with AI. “I was expecting it to happen sooner. The other part that surprised me from the technology perspective is deep learning, how that has taken off and how much promise it has actually been able to deliver, very quickly.”

Sudhir gives the example that “four or five years ago, it was almost impossible for facial recognition or speech recognition to be even 30, 40, 50 percent accurate. And now we’re talking about 90-plus percent accurate.

“And in fact, we are talking about where a machine can detect an image—or from a medical diagnosis or a picture, a disease—more clearly than a human can. Now you’re talking about where you can do it with more promise. You can take that and, if nothing else, make a human’s life easier by giving them the cases that you think are going to be worthwhile for them to look at.”

Learn more about Sudhir’s thoughts about AI’s evolution in “AI past, present and future,” a video interview with Karen Webster of PYMNTS.

Sudhir Jha is Mastercard Senior Vice President and Head of Brighterion.