Cognitive Business: Inside the Mind of an AI Startup Advisor

In this Cognitive Business interview, we explore the world of AI and cognitive computing, through the eyes of Steve Ardire, a startup advisor who has worked with over 40 startups in the last 20 years.

How did you become an expert in this field?

I started off in Geology. One of the fundamental skill sets in the field is pattern matching. That translated well with machine learning - which is matching of entities and concepts.

Machine Learning, Machine Intelligence, Deep Learning, AI, and cognitive computing? Is there one correct term to address intelligent technologies?

The definitions of all these words are very similar. “AI” is too broad and abstract for some folks. Some say, that a better description is “intelligence amplification.” I prefer to use “Machine Intelligence.” I define it as Machine Intelligence= AI + Machine Learning.

“I define it as Machine Intelligence= AI + Machine Learning.- Steve Ardire

In your SmartData presentation on AI, you say that the future of the internet is FLOW. What do you mean by that?

Information is becoming more dynamic. There is a huge tsunami of social, sensor, messaging, video, and audio intelligence data that’s coming and it requires us to process it in real time.

Traditionally AI is based on static data. In the future, AI will take a live stream of data (structured and unstructured) and generate something actionable in the moment. In the future, machines will be able to infer what they don’t know in real time. This is how the future of the internet is flow.

Data scientists don’t scale. So, will we eventually replace them with intelligent and scalable technologies?

Yes. Soon, everyone will have access to data science. Everyone will have the ability to extract insightful data soon and the industry knows it. An example of a company making this possible is @vervedotai, a startup that focuses on customer experience augmented intelligence automation.

We can already see intelligent and scalable technologies surfacing. You can see it Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now. And this trend will continue.

Do you see all companies becoming AI companies?

No. What I see happening is companies leveraging AI to augment their workers’ capabilities. Companies will use AI to help knowledge workers do less of the automatable tasks and to redirect knowledge workers’ energy towards more strategic tasks. The goal is to improve the knowledge worker’s productivity.

“There is a lot of opportunity for small and medium businesses who use AI to catch up to big ones.” - Steve Ardire

You mention that enterprises aren’t afraid of AI but are they using the technology and - most importantly - are they investing in it?

Yes. AI helps improve performance and productivity and enterprises are taking note. Just take a look at Gartner’s and Narrative Science’s stats on the topic.

85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human, by 2020. - Gartner
44% of executives believe artificial intelligence’s most important benefit is “automated communications that provide data that can be used to make decisions.” - Narrative Science
80% of executives believe artificial intelligence improves worker performance and creates jobs. - Narrative Science

IBM claims that companies do not have access to 80% of their data. Does AI help address that 80%?

Yes. IBM is right. In fact, I believe statistics says that the number is going to 90%.

How do you see AI first penetrating companies: through business function applications, industry solutions, or both? And why?

Both. In terms of business functions, marketing and sales are key because that’s what drives companies. Just imagine: AI will improve salespeople’s ability to identify opportunities and close them better, smarter and faster. It’s a big deal.

Besides sales and marketing, we will see AI penetrating human resources (HR) and customer service. Why? Well, AI can help HR with on-boarding, for example. HR can condense the process and customize it with the help of AI. As with customer service, everyone wants a VIP treatment and AI can make it happen at scale, 24-7, globally. AI will provide superior customer service that addresses the needs of customers better, smarter, and faster than ever before.

What roles do the cloud and blockchain play in the evolution of AI and cognitive computing?

They are both fundamental components. Blockchain technologies establish transparency in business processes - making transactions more secure. The cloud is essential to take full advantage of both blockchain technologies and AI.

The cloud is the cat’s meow! - Steve Ardire

What are your thoughts on IBM Bluemix?

For IBM Watson by the end of 2016 there are going to be another 50 APIs that are adding to cognitive capabilities, making it attractive to developers and making it easier for integration. It’s for the pioneers of AI and cognitive computing but it’s expensive.

CB Insights cites that the number of AI startups is increasing. Is the market becoming saturated? Who will come out as a winner?

It’s true. An AI startup needs to have clear differentiators to beat its competition. But the big tech players need to watch out.

AI startup winners will involve legal applications of the technology. AI will serve companies as an early warning system of legal risks - and then help mitigate them. Imagine you have an employee that becomes malcontent and before it gets out of hand, your AI tells you about it. It can save companies millions of dollars.

Can you talk to us about why open source AI / machine intelligence is important?

Glad you asked. I actually wrote an article on Re-Work on this topic. You can read it here.

I’m a feminist and I have to know: do you think we will have sexist AI robo-bosses in the future?

What I can say is that AI and cognitive technologies require data and training from humans. So if the data and the trainings are biased, AIs will reflect this.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The benefits of AI are smarter decisions by knowledge workers. It’s all about augmenting intelligence.

This will transform the way we work. I talk about it here. ...but that’s a conversation for another day.

How can we learn more about you, AI and cognitive computing?

I think my interview on RoboticsLive is pretty good. Take a look here.

You can also come see me present at Machine Intelligence Summit, New York, Nov 2-3; AI World Conf & Expo, San Francisco, Nov 7-9; and Defrag, Broomfield CO, Nov 16-17.

“Cognitive Business” is an interview series featuring prominent figures in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) world. Written by Lolita Taub and written for C-suite and Line-of-Business seeking to address business challenges and goals using the smartest tech.

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