Artificial intelligence is a topic that has been making plenty of headlines recently as advancements in machine learning, automation, and programming are bringing us just steps away from an actual computer-based brain that can think, imagine, and maybe even feel.

We already have plenty of apps and software that can mimic AI by performing certain tasks or activities with such proficiency as to appear independently intelligent. For example, chess supercomputers are already capable of beating the best humans at chess.

Until recently, all of these so-called AI systems were based on pre-programmed rules – if this happens, then do that. Now, AI is taking on a new level of complexity with Google’s AlphaZero AI teaching itself how to play chess and then beating the world’s top chess engine, Stockfish.

Now that we’re at the point where machines are capable of teaching themselves how to do things, the implications are exciting, yet frightening. The next decade will inevitably bring some major breakthroughs that will change the way the global economy works.

How will the next generation of entrepreneurs be able to leverage the power of AI to their advantage? How will it affect existing companies? While anything beyond 2030 could be considered educated speculation, here are some of the ways that AI and automation are likely to affect businesses on the not-so-distant future:

Lower Payroll Expenses, Higher Technology Costs

In the future, businesses will need fewer employees because there will be so many robotic and AI-based solutions available that are capable of replacing hourly employees. However, these technologies won’t be cheap and will represent a significant upfront investment in their own right.

Furthermore, the risk presented by a system-wide AI malfunction might be greater than the risk presented by a single human-caused mishap. On the other hand, AI will be less likely to make errors altogether and eventually there will be systems that can perform basic labor tasks with 99.9% accuracy and efficiency.

One concept learned when studying for a masters in electrical and computer engineering is that demand dictates the cost of technology. Since everyone will want true AI and only a relative handful of companies will be able to offer it, early adopters should expect to pay a premium.

Automated Support Systems That Sound Like Humans

In the past two years, there have been some incredible strides made in human voice replication. Canadian startup Dessa recently showcased a deep fake audio clip that sounds exactly like Joe Rogan. Once AI has the ability to sound exactly like a human over the phone, we will probably see many businesses resorting to fully automated support systems.

Of course, this presents a horrifying scenario for the consumer, as they will no longer be able to tell whether they’re speaking to a robot or an actual person. Obviously, this might also negatively affect the call center and phone support industries as more companies reduce their dependence on human support agents.

Increased Difficulty in Competing with Other Companies

If you think the playing field is already a bit unfair for the little guys, imagine how difficult it might be for a small business to succeed in a competitive niche when the most successful brands will already have AI in their corner.

There should still be plenty of entrepreneurial opportunity due to the fact that the world population is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030. However, in order to compete, companies will need to either operate in industries that don’t rely heavily on AI or be prepared to invest in AI solutions for their own companies.

Innovation and Invention Will Become More Valuable Than Ever

As mentioned, competing in certain existing industries might become absurdly difficult once the major players have taken ahold of their market shares through the assistance of AI-led strategy and marketing efforts. In such a climate, one of the last remaining ways to be successful from scratch will be to create something entirely new, thereby securing a lion’s share of your own newly created market.

However, the big players will have their AI analysts ready to duplicate your business model and compete with you much faster than before. Thus, some of the most successful human-led companies will be those that are able to continually invent new apps, products, and services that cater to our ever-changing, increasingly technological world.

New Industries Will Pop Up to Address Common Concerns

As AI continues to advance to the point of becoming downright scary, there will undoubtedly be many people who simply won’t trust robots and computers that can think for themselves. To accommodate the alleviation of such concerns, there will be a wave of solutions that specialize in cybersecurity specifically for AI applications.

The challenge when using an advanced AI that can teach itself how to do things is that it needs to be limited in some way to prevent it from becoming a risk. Just as companies are currently willing to pay top dollar for the best enterprise security software, they’ll be willing to shell out hefty sums for protection against AI-based attacks and lapses as well.

AI Fearmongering Will Be Big Business

Movies like Transcendence and Avengers: Age of Ultron have already hinted at what it might be like if a hyper-intelligent AI entity were to escape onto the world wide web like a virus. At that point, humans will have created a virtually omnipotent, invisible, immortal, god-like being that can learn and do almost anything. It would have the ability to think for itself and move between machines and robotic bodies with the same ease as sending an email.

In the past, you could ignore computer viruses because they didn’t seem to affect the real world. But what happens when the virus can put itself into a robotic avatar or take control of machines to cause actual havoc in the real world? At this point, there’s no telling whether such a being would wind up being benevolent or malevolent.

To some extent, this would depend on what the machine began to learn first. Of course, an AI that has been teaching itself solely how to engage in battle would be highly dangerous, while an AI that’s been teaching itself how to create climate change-resistant crops could wind up saving the world.