What is formative AI and why should you care?

According to analyst firm Gartner, formative AI will help drive innovation over the next decade. But what exactly is it, and how can your business benefit?


Formative AI is an umbrella term given to a range of emerging AI and related technologies that can dynamically change in response to situational variances. Some may enable application developers and UX designers to create solutions using AI-enabled tools, while others facilitate the development of AI models that can evolve dynamically to adapt over time. "The most advanced can generate novel models to solve specific problems," notes Svetlana Sicular, VP analyst at Gartner.

Must-watch technologies

In its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2020 report, Gartner put formative AI in its list of 30 must-watch technologies due to its disruptive nature and potential business benefits, and the analyst firm isn't alone in its views.

"According to economists, formative AU technologies aid in the drop in price of prediction," notes Monmayuri Ray, a GitLab solutions architect. "Prediction is at the heart of strategy making for uncertainty and hence, businesses should care about these technologies [because they can support] cost-effective prediction and decision making."

Enterprises looking to explore the boundaries of AI should analyse technologies that fall under the umbrella of formative AI, advises Sicular. According to Gartner these are AI-augmented design and development, ontologies and graphs, small data, composite AI, adaptive machine learning (ML), self-supervised learning, generative AI and generative adversarial networks.

"Enterprises should care about these innovations because they represent new capabilities compared to those actively exploited in AI today," she says.

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