As human beings, we’re particularly adept at recognizing patterns and making decisions based on small amounts of data. Our abilities to size up a situation, reach a conclusion, and react quickly have been key factors in our survival as a species.

Recently, I’ve noticed a shift in the way some companies are promoting products and services based on artificial intelligence. Instead of portraying AI as exotic and futuristic, they’re positioning it as another potentially useful ingredient in the technology recipe book.

Much of the newer promotion around AI seeks to downplay its complexity and focus on its utility within vertical markets such as retail, manufacturing, telecommunications, and financial services.

To me, this suggests a new level of maturity within the AI industry itself. From my perspective, that’s a healthy indication. It means the AI industry is growing up. Frankly, I’m delighted to see AI companies developing sales and marketing strategies aimed at specific sectors of the economy. It’s a sign of confidence.

Some of the conversation around AI is shifting away from software and refocusing on hardware. Nvidia, the innovative maker of graphical processing units (GPUs) for gaming and industry, has emerged as an important player in the AI industry because its powerful GPUs have become standard equipment for many AI developers.

Here’s another interesting example of how the landscape has changed: A tech startup in China is apparently using AI to mine Bitcoins, the cryptocurrency based on Blockchain technology. As I wrote in last week’s Tech News Digest, the application of AI techniques to cryptocurrency markets has the potential to fundamentally disrupt and transform the global economy.  

Bitcoin miners can earn up to $7 million per day, which can add up to lots of disruption, very quickly. For the moment, only a handful of people have the skills and resources necessary for applying AI to Bitcoin mining. But that could change overnight if the AI programs used to mine Bitcoins were printed onto specialized silicon chips.

Clearly, we’re at the cusp of a leap forward in the use of AI. It’s hard to predict where that leap will take us. Are we heading toward the “last mile” of AI or the first mile of a much longer journey? It does seem certain that we’re leaving the early, immature days of AI and entering a brave new world.