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Decades ago, the prospect of talking to someone on the other side of the world was unimaginable. Doing business with them, regularly coordinating with them and bridging the geographic and linguistic distance between you and them was even more incomprehensible. Now it is the norm.

Imagine a world where you enter a retail store and are instantly identified by your mobile phone. Your preferences, credit card details and buying history are immediately recognized along with your identity and from that moment on, the entire in-store experience is customized to your needs and desires. You select products either by scanning a code on your smartphone or by placing items in a physical shopping cart the old-school way. When you are finished shopping, your shopping tally is calculated as you walk past sensors near the exit and the amount owing is immediately charged to your default credit card.

Sound fanciful or futuristic? Well this is almost precisely the automated retail experience shoppers are already enjoying in Amazon’s recently opened bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

It has been a growing popular conversation over the last decade. Driverless cars – one of the sure symbols that the future has arrived.

For many of us, the very mention of Artificial Intelligence conjures up futuristic notions of SkyNet and cunning malevolent robots rising to destroy humankind in the Terminator film series.