AI has become a mainstay of enterprise growth discussions in the last year. From my own experiences with product development to user experience, the implication of artificial intelligence is becoming as expected as the term “mobile technology” was years ago.
To learn more about these trends, I spoke with Helen Liang, managing partner at FoundersX Ventures – an early-stage venture capital firm with a strong focus on AI investment – and His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence of the Government of the United Arab Emirates.
“We make investments in AI startups including various different verticals like robotics, autonomous driving, drones, healthcare, adtech, fintech, and we think it’s going to be very disruptive to current industry,” said Liang.
Al Olama said, “I don’t think it’s about trends per se. Trends are one component.
It’s about what is the potential outcome for artificial intelligence and how it’s going to impact governments, private sector, civilians lives in both the positive and negative.”
Social responsibility was a frequent topic at this year’s World Government Summit in Dubai, where both Liang and Al Olama spoke about artificial intelligence and its future, but many were discussing the burden of responsibility that comes with innovation. Industry leaders like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have “validated” certain concerns with red flags about AI’s dark potential. Al Olama is quick to counter those fears.
“There is a way for us to use technology better, there’s a way for us to use technology to create potential and overcome these negative concerns,” said Al Olama. “That’s why you need to have people from different backgrounds, working on different things from all over the world, to come together and share with each other our collective outcomes.”
Liang agrees. “Disruption brings social changes. That’s where we see the value – in discussions about tech policy, guidance, etcetera, to be sure the technology brings social good.”
That’s where governments play a role. Deloitte Insights says that cognitive tech has the potential to both revolutionize the public sector and save billions of dollars. Indeed, their latest report suggests conservatively that by automating tasks that computers perform routinely could save as much as $3.3 billion dollars by freeing up almost 97 million working hours annually. Those numbers could go even higher, freeing up 1.2 billion federal government working hours that would lead to savings of $41.1 billion.
Al Olama agrees, adding: “I think the biggest potential for AI is in government. Today, most of the government spending is on operation expenses – and only 20 percent of government spending is on investment. Now, think of that in the context of the private sector, that’s a very bad [way to do business]. The reason why governments are inefficient is that everyone who’s working in the government thinks that they know what they are doing – and they probably do – but there is no personal entity or program overseeing the performance in a way that makes it more efficient. For example, how do I know where to cut costs or where to invest? I’d need to get advisors and consultants.”
The benefits will run deep, Al Olama explains. “If you look at South Korea for example, they don’t have as many resources as many of the top countries in the world, but they have talent. Imagine if you have an AI system that’s more talented than any individual on earth. The economy we are looking at is going to be transformed. The advantage will no longer be talented humans; it will be talented humans plus very sophisticated AI,” says Al Olama. “I think governments are actually the player that needs to be looking at this seriously – not just looking at it from behind the curtains and trying to make sense of it.”
Liang says it’s not just government that can benefit, but businesses and consumers as well. She takes the pillars of sharing and augmenting as an example. “You know young teenagers are making hamburgers in fast-food restaurants. Imagine integrating that with Alexa or Google.” Liang makes the point that these employees can now be guided via voice-controlled tech on when to flip the burger, how long to cook a meal for and more. “This whole system will be delivered and integrated with whatever voice control system they feel comfortable with” she adds.
But there are still many steps to take before we arrive at Artificial Valhalla. According to the Emory Report, there’s a new field combining applied math, engineering and computer science — that “applies the logic of differential equations to refine the chaos of deep learning.”
Pioneering this field is Emory College mathematician Lars Ruthotto. He understands the need for deep learning (all AI tech has deep learning at its core) and how tricky it is to build out artificial neural networks with layer upon layer at the center. But he sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We will be able to create optimization algorithms for a whole new breed of deep learning networks,” Ruthotto says. “This new breed will be more stable, ergo more predictable and more trustworthy.”
Liang agrees. “AI has been here since the 60’s but we’re now at a point where we’ll see major development and disruptions to major business.”
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