We recently interviewed Steve Ardire, Merchant of Light and AI guru. Steve has been an advisor to over 40 startups in the last 20 years. In recent years, he has focused his efforts on the AI space having positioned himself for the coming wave. True to form, AI or artificial intelligence has become a sizzling red hot industry.
We started by establishing a baseline definition for artificial intelligence which is a broad term that has actually been around 40 plus years. Modern AI now uses more sophisticated techniques such as applying deep learning to data, images, or video and leveraging algorithms to discover the who, what, how and why - which is the hardest question a machine can answer.
Steve cited the stat that from HBR that 33% of most value added contributions come from just 3-5% of the workforce. That means huge inefficiencies in productivity that are impacting business bottom lines - Enter the machines (cue scary music) - The truth is machines are already better than humans at many tasks, namely in the areas of image and pattern analysis as well as speech recognition, while humans still excel where a multimodal approach is needed, as multimodality is hard for computers. Now with neural networks, AI can even anticipate human behavior and predict human behavior 43% of the time vs humans being at 71%.
This is all points to a very near future where increasingly machines perform human jobs and eventually, society will realize we’re not needed to perform these mundane tasks. As unsettling as this seems, AI is doing many things to improve the human condition. When procedural tasks are routine, why not automate them? If menial tasks are a waste of time? Why not let computers perform them better and more efficiently? This leaves humans to focus on value add. AI enables faster time to insightand more net positive outcomes.
Most of AI is supervised learning which means you have to train an algorithm to do something...like fraud detection or radiology, it’s supervised because the initial images for example are labeled and the machine learns to identify other similar images. This type of AI brings huge gains in terms of detection accuracy at scale, which can be used in support of humans, connecting mission critical dots and the AI can Illuminate human expertise of humans and contextual associations. AI essentially levels up the playing field, it can lead to inspiration of another outcome or open up a new reveal. It’s really all about humans and machines working together to drive faster insights more positive outcomes
Steve’s focus is really aimed at helping AI startups compete against status quo players who are all now open sourcing their engines. This alone gives those players such as Google, and Facebook a huge competitive advantage, made even more so given the huge amounts of data consumers give them willingly for free. So for startups, the key question becomes how do you weave that data with algorithms that attack a particular problem? For AI startups to succeed, they need to leverage the open source data that is now readily available, but not be dependent on just one vendor.
Steve believes that causal reasoning is an interesting play for startups.. getting them out of the plumbing and into the data wrangling. One of the startups he is currently advising Meelo applies causal reasoning with context and time, helping to fuel data driven businesses as well as unlocking knowledge transfer with speed and accuracy. Causal reasoning is something humans can do fluidly, for AI being able to understand perception and intent will be the next generation of customer and brand intelligence.
Another fascinating topic we discussed was unsupervised learning, where AI actually learns on its own, with unsupervised learning, the AI doesn’t need training sets, it learns from interactions and becomes smarter over time, this is the holy grail of what is happening today. Much of this achieved through neural networks which mimic the function of the human brain and gives the AI the ability to apply human like tendencies, rather than just the reasoning. At the bleeding edge of this type is AI are companies focused on bringing emotional intelligence to machines. Soul Machines, a company that was spun out of the University of Auckland Laboratory for Animate Technologies which has a mandate is to take emotional intelligence and combine it with logic and cognitive reasoning. The embodiment of the technology started with BabyX and is expanding into lifelike digital avatars that can read human emotion and react accordingly.
Steve sees AI becoming the UI, and believes that AI will transcend linear storytelling to create interactive experiences that bring people in and manufacturing a degree of serendipity that hits all emotional and experiential triggers such as new and cool artist IAMEVE who uses a combination of computer generated visuals plus music to create experiences that are pushing the envelope in terms of entertainment. As we both spent time at the AI Show biz conference recently in LA, it was inspiring to see the intersection of the entertainment industry with AI where pioneers and luminaries such as Brett Leonard whose film Lawnmower Man is one of the first movies dedicated to augmented intelligence (machine plus human) spoke about the need to create more interactive compelling experiences.
It was a fascinating conversation that still left so much to be explored, thank you to Steve for joining us. Steve Ardire, "Merchant of Light" & startup advisor can be found on Twitter: @sardire and LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/sardire