Bezos Says Artificial Intelligence to Fuel Amazon's Success

  • CEO’s annual shareholder letter promises ‘much more to come’
  • Machine learning enhances products ‘beneath the surface’

The Robots Making Your Online Orders Faster

Amazon.com Inc. is embracing artificial intelligence to deliver goods more quickly, enhance its voice-activated Alexa assistant and create new tools sold to others through its cloud-computing division, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said in his annual shareholder letter.

Changes ushered in by artificial intelligence and machine learning will help the companies that embrace them and put up barriers for those who don’t, the world’s second-richest man wrote in a 1,700-word letter released Wednesday.

Bezos repeated familiar themes, such as the need to operate a business like it’s always “Day 1” to keep a startup mentality and the ability to act quickly on limited information to stay ahead, what he calls “high-velocity decision making.” His emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine learning was the most concrete indication of areas in which the e-commerce giant will continue to invest.

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being programmed, and is used in autonomous cars, speech-recognition and internet search engines. The technology has influenced high-profile projects at Amazon such as drone delivery, its popular Echo voice-activated speaker and the new cashier-less Amazon Go convenience store unveiled late last year in Seattle, Bezos wrote.

“But much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface,” he wrote. “Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more. Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type -- quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.”

Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing division, will offer affordable tools so clients can incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into their own operations. Such tools have already been used by to detect diseases and increase crop yields, Bezos wrote.

“Watch this space,” Bezos said. “Much more to come.”

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