As technology in Silicon Valley continues to lead innovation around the world and competition among local tech companies heats up, we hear buzzwords like artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation every day. While many are embracing this advanced tech and challenging competitors, it can also feel like these terms are thrown onto every other billboard on the side of Highway 101 and that every company wants to be an “AI company.”
I recently attended a panel moderated by Tom Taulli, a Forbes technology journalist and author of Artificial Intelligence Basics that dove deeper into artificial intelligence. The panel, titled Beyond the AI Hype: A Discussion with Tom Taulli, considered the defining characteristics of AI companies, new advancements in AI technology, how it will impact our world in the future and AI and ethics. The panelists included: the CEO and Co-Founder of Sift, Jason Tan; the VP of Marketing, Digital Service and Operations Management at BMC Software, Vidhya Srinivasan; the Chief Brand Advocate of Persado, Ryan Deutsch; the Product Manager of AI Infrastructure at NVIDIA, Chau Dang; and the VP of Engineering at Hired, Anant Verma.
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The panelists explored three main questions throughout the panel:
What does a “real” AI company look like? While most agreed that data is the core foundation that makes AI possible, it’s easy to tack on “intelligent” to a variety of catchy terms like “intelligent data” and “intelligent insights.” However, AI is much more than an owned data set, data science and automated machines. Consumers often misunderstand the defining characteristics of AI technology. Vidhya Srinivasan from BMC Software explained that whether or not a company is actually employing AI depends on what the company does to drive business outcomes. The real value of AI is the product, service or insight that is the result of the AI technology hard at work, or the output. The truth is much of the technology that we call AI today has not evolved past automation and machine learning. Going beyond this to achieve highly intelligent, only machine-based output, or actual AI, is not possible without a massive infrastructure. Chau Dang from NVIDIA pointed out that this is often only feasible for tech giants with huge amounts of data like Facebook and Google.
Where will AI take us next? The ways in which AI could impact our society in the future seem exciting and endless. Some current examples we see today are Tesla’s self-driving cars, automated baristas serving lattes in the mall, targeted advertisements on Instagram, and robots solving a Rubik’s cube. But we are not even yet aware of the technology’s full potential. The panelists and many IT leaders in Silicon Valley predict that AI will be our next industrial revolution. AI will likely touch every aspect of our lives and make waves in every industry from finance to retail to healthcare.
So how can we incorporate ethics with AI? Many fear our future will look like a sci-fi film where the society has been negatively impacted from AI and evil robots, like the Terminator or iRobot. But we are not in a sci-fi film — we have the power and responsibility to consider how we are using technology to shape our world. We can ensure we incorporate ethics into our decision making around the development of AI technology and be thoughtful in how we implement AI into our daily lives. Jason Tan from Sift highlighted a whole new set of ethical questions that lawmakers will need to explore in order to regulate AI technology and maintain data privacy. This new generation of lawmakers will face a variety of moral dilemmas that are unimaginable to us today. While we don’t know what tomorrow brings, we will need to realistically discuss the negative impact of AI and focus on how AI can enhance our lives for the better.
It may not always be smooth sailing as we integrate AI into the fabric of technology, but as long as we continue to have an open dialogue about the best ways to incorporate AI into our world, we’ll continue to see great innovation. We decide what comes next.
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