What is Artificial Intelligence?

Defined: Artificial intelligence (AI)

Defined: Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer system to make human-like decisions about complex problems. It simulates human behavior by taking in diverse information and stimuli to learn, adjust and make changes in real time. Machine learning (ML), a subset of AI, is the ability to automatically learn from past data without being specifically programmed to do so. It uses vast data and algorithms to automatically learn, gradually improving its accuracy and creating an ever-evolving version of itself.  

Why is it important?

AI is being used across industries to redefine efficiency, convenience and accuracy. It has the power to make lives easier or make businesses and technologies more advanced by reducing or eliminating human effort and error. It can model, improve, evolve, understand and solve both simple and complex human problems. Some of the benefits of AI over human effort include its high levels of accuracy, becoming more precise the more it is used; reliability; speed; no human error; and ability to be implemented 24/7. 

How is it impacting the world today?

How is it being implemented across industry?

AI is influencing many industries through its ability to process data and improve efficiencies. It has already led to breakthroughs in the medical, retail, hospitality and finance sectors, among others. Some examples include transportation (autonomous cars, whose technology can analyze traffic and alternate routes to reduce travel time); manufacturing (high-performing robots that work faster, complete tasks more efficiently and can work for longer periods); health care (applications such as autonomous surgical robots, virtual nursing assistants and automated image diagnosis); entertainment (machine learning predicts a user’s behavior and then makes recommendations on the type of movie, music, TV shows and other content they’ll be interested in); and sports (automation and predictive analysis can be used in business decisions, sponsorship activations, ticket sales and determining athletes’ performance).

What problems is it solving in the world?

Any problem that can benefit from the processing of massive amounts of data or information is an opportunity for AI. In the medical field, AI technology has been used to discover cancer cells with extreme accuracy. AI is improving automobiles, predictive maintenance, optimizing manufacturing and supply chain operations. It has been used to improve customer service and customer experience, delivering relevant content and experiences. It has also been used to create better inventory and sourcing management, improving safety and security, traffic management, delivering better public service, lowering energy consumption through efficient operations, and ushering in big improvements to operational efficiency and even cybersecurity.

Artificial Intelligence at 3M

How is it being viewed, utilized and developed at 3M?

3M implements AI in a variety of ways to improve systems and products. We view AI as an important technology with vast applications to strengthen our science.

AI and 3M businesses.

3M’s Health Information Systems Division, for example, uses AI, based on speech and natural language understanding to help clinicians and health care systems to better manage their clinical documentation, revenue cycle and population health management processes. Learn more about these AI and ML solutions here. Our Transportation Safety Division and Personal Safety Division are looking at road, building and environmental data to optimize the safety of workers and equipment in real time. Our Construction and Home Improvement Markets Division is using AI to predict furnace filter life. 3M is using AI to improve its ability to develop and then manufacture new materials and processes. We use advanced algorithms to improve the global supply chain as well as improve the quality of production. We are also using AI to improve sourcing and meet the needs of our customers.


We also view AI through the lens of ethics. We believe it’s important for individuals to understand how AI uses data and that brands, companies and other organizations have ethical standards when using machine learning. See our AI and Ethics story below for more insights.

Big Picture: What could AI mean for the future?

The majority of AI will be invisible to the world, and broader access to AI technology will create new applications. Voice, facial and other recognition technology will be even more ubiquitous while personalized services can cater more closely to people’s needs or goals. Self-learning will lead to improved quality across diverse industries. As areas of manufacturing, customer service, health or personal entertainment improve, individuals will receive faster results and more convenient options. The opportunities for AI are almost limitless. 

Learn more about the application of AI at 3M in our stories below and see our 3M Futures survey on artificial intelligence, showcasing global perceptions—and reluctance—of its role in our lives.