Post #80: AI = Abundant Inspiration

Ask a hundred people what AI (or artificial intelligence) means and you will probably get a hundred different answers. Artificial intelligence is not just ubiquitous – we encounter it almost unknowingly every day when using our mobile handsets – but also deeply misunderstood, hence the fear felt by some of machines taking over the world. To get a useful update (or dare one say it, an abundance of inspiration) on this broad topic, we spent some time recently listening to Kate Kallot, Director of AI and Machine Learning at ARM, a business your author has been following for over a decade.

Rather than seeking to define AI, Kate was keen to reframe the debate; AI constitutes a broad ecosystem, not just the intellectual property stemming from academic publications, but crucially its interaction with hardware and software to create solutions. Put another way, “the technology is just an enabler.” We concur. When developing the AI ecosystem, “you need to think about the people you are going to serve.” Further, considerations about privacy and security need to be at the heart of any discussion about AI.

Rest assured then that machines won’t be taking over the world any time soon.Think of AI as a technology that “enhances experience.” Online shopping (powered by AI algorithms) complements the presence of physical stores; Kindles have not replaced books, and so on. More positively, looking forward our digital experiences should only improve, particularly as computer vision and natural language processing allow devices to better understand our gestures and speech.

The COVID-19 pandemic could well accelerate the trend to digital (and hence AI) by default – see our Rubicon thesis – but the current crisis may also  be “an opportunity to apply the technology for the greater good.” The SARS-CoV-2 genome could not have been sequenced without AI, Kate was keen to highlight. Meanwhile, in many countries (particularly in the emerging world) practical solutions encompassing everything from delivery by drone to electronic payments are being facilitated with the help of AI. Now that’s inspiring.

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