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Takeaways: O’Reilly AI Part 2

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Among the speakers at the O’Reilly AI Conference were the eponymous conference producer and long-time tech industry guru Tim O’Reilly, and Genevieve Bell, representing Intel, one of the premium sponsors of the event. This is what I thought were the primary messages they delivered.

Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media. Tim was upbeat about AI and its potential to “change the game” of business. He cited complex problems that will always arise when we change the nature of the relationship between people and their computer tools, and he expects that we will never run out of jobs. He concluded by asking: “Whose black box do you trust?” This issue of trust is one of the primary themes that kept bubbling up across presentations. Technology is complex and the popular media tend not to understand why things do or do not work. We need to do a better job of explaining how things work, together with engaging in a more open discussion of how we get the results that we do. Technology needs to stop being the mysterious bogeyman in the closet.

Genevieve Bell, Intel. “AI is just another manifestation of what it is to be human.” Bell is an anthropologist and struck another of the emerging themes of this conference: that we need to take into account cultural expectations when we design products that people will want to use. AI may have started as an all-knowing black box that could run the world. It’s becoming apparent as AI elements are embedded increasingly in devices and software that some things work and some don’t. Context and culture differ from one person to the next, and from one moment to the next. They govern usefulness and therefore adoption of technology.

Intel, as a major sponsor of this conference, was very much in evidence. They are investing heavily in AI, both through acquiring companies like Saffron, Movidius, and Nervana, and through developing more suitable computational architectures for AI. They have released Data Analytics Acceleration and Math Kernel Libraries to open source with a view to helping scale and optimize AI processes and products.

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About the Author:

Sue Feldman is Co-founder and Managing Director at the Cognitive Computing Consortium. She also is PrAs VP for Content Technologies at IDC, Sue developed and led research on search, text analytics and unified access technologies and markets. Her most recent book, The Answer Machine was published in 2012. Her current research is on use cases and guidelines for adopting cognitive computing to solve real world problems.
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