Even with AI, people are still the driving force of innovation

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The dream of artificial intelligence has been alive for about as long as we have had computers, if not longer, and thanks to recent advancements in hardware and machine learning, that dream is now more real than ever. And it has potential not only as a business tool but as something that can benefit the entire human race, from curing cancer to improving life for the visually impaired.

At this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, one of the big trends was AI for social good, and Brian Fanzo (pictured), founder and chief executive of iSocialFanz LLC, sat down with theCUBE host John Furrier at the Intel AI Lounge to talk about the role of technology in today’s socially conscious world.

According to Fanzo, the modern consumer has high expectations for what technology can do, and those expectations are shaping the future of the tech industry.

“I think today’s generation has a bigger megaphone and is not afraid to say what they want,” Fanzo said. “And because now we have all the data, they’re not afraid to share that data and we’re being much more transparent, allowing people to be a little more authentic with what they’re sharing. We now have the opportunity to really shape new technology based on more data than we’ve ever had, more understanding of our consumers than we’ve ever had. I like to say that the consumer’s no longer dumb, therefore we have to start really pushing the boundaries.”

Collaboration and the human element

Fanzo noted that “collaboration is the key” when it comes to pushing those boundaries. “It’s the idea of chips coming together with hardware and software, working together not only in the post-product stage but in the innovation stage,” Fanzo said.

This sentiment was recently echoed by Kaggle Inc., a data science competition platform acquired by Google earlier this week. Kaggle Chief Executive Anthony Goldbloom has said that collaboration will play a major role in the future of machine learning, but he also admitted that collaboration on those project is currently “painful” due to the limitations of the tools currently used.

Furrier asked Fanzo what he thought about the countercultural element of tech innovation, and how the recent problems with fake news show how people are using technology to disrupt “traditionally sacred cows” like the government. Fanzo responded that people are starting to realize that the human element is still an important part of technology.

“I think for the longest time technology was taking us further away from the human condition, and we are able to be fake online, throw up a website and really distance ourselves from the consumer and the community,” Fanzo said. “I believe now people are kind of seeing through that. We’re now coming full circle where live video and a lot of these other things are saying that we want humans and we want to be able to come together.”

Fanzo said that the human element is also important when it comes to the advancement of AI, and he explained that “we have to be able to trust the algorithms.”

When it comes to emerging technology such as AI or virtual reality, Fanzo said that consumers are  look at them like any other new technology. “No one cares what the product is. We want to know how does it impact us and why should we care?”

The value of AI

While AI can work for the social good and enable the people-first tech landscape that Fanzo talks about, there is also one big reason that more and more companies are betting on cognitive tech and machine learning: AI is big money.

According to a recent report by International Data Corp., the cognitive systems and artificial intelligence market could surge to $47 billion in revenue by 2020, and this number does not even consider the money saved by companies who turn to this technology to automate different aspects of their business.

AI is one of the most complicated fields of computer science, and until recently, the resources required to create an AI were out of reach for all but the biggest tech companies. Now, while the biggest advancements in AI are still coming from the likes of Google, Intel, IBM and others, the tools needed to build AI have become more accessible for the average company.

For example, a number of open-source machine learning libraries are available, such as Google’s TensorFlow. The hardware costs have also come down thanks to companies such as Nvidia Corp., whose bleeding-edge graphics processing units have turned out to be just as good at processing deep learning as they are at playing the latest and greatest video games.

AI is already disrupting not only the tech industry, but also nearly every other industry, from hospitality to healthcare to automotive and beyond. It will likely be a few more years before we can gauge the real impact that AI is having on our society, and whether it will be the world-changing innovation we dream of or simply another technology in the enterprise’s ever-expanding toolbox.

Photo: SiliconANGLE