After a great 7-year run starting and leading a data analytics company, last month I enthusiastically handed the reins over to our new leader. I realized that I’m more of an explorer than an expander. And I found myself with some time to think.
If I could dedicate myself towards exploring a new arena in the world, what would it be? Storytelling? Picking up the accordion again? Blockchain? Woodworking? Vertical farming? No, no. Break-dancing is making a comeback!
After much pondering, I made a decision. I’m going on a one-year hike — through the dense forest of artificial intelligence. The breadth and depth of this forest, the unexpected and unintended impact of this forest on the planet, and the potential for new life from this forest for good and for evil — all of these are so intriguingly TBD that I’m packing up to head in.
Now, this is no ordinary unexplored forest, with plenty of poisonous confusion, oversimplification, fear-mongering, and overhype that has become typical in AI news articles. It’s time to push through that. I’ll be looking at AI from 5 lenses (GUIDE is the semi-accidental acronym):
- Global citizen. Will AI eat us alive? Or save us from ourselves? Or meld with us so that in 15 seconds, we can “know kung-fu” ? Or will it just be another tool in our tech tool kit? Who owns the original music that AI composes? What if someone hacks your AI-driven car and smashes it into a building? How could a rogue nation create autonomous killing robots? What do we do with AI that can predict if you’re homosexual based on your facial structure? What if our AI simply reflects the racist biases and prejudices of its creators? Superintelligent AI is still far off, but what’s alarming is that the pace of advancement is accelerating. Even the experts don’t agree how it will end, but they do agree that computers aren’t just getting smarter faster, they’re getting smarter on how to get smarter faster. (smarter faster)2 Here’s the thing – these tricky ethical and policy questions are not usually answered at a (smarter faster)2 pace. When capabilities abound and guardrails are absent, well, basically, you’ve got the unpredictability of a group of a talented, buzzed teenagers with keys to the car.
- User. Some say that everything with a plug will also have a brain. Think about that for a second. How “smart” could the things around you be – your phone, computer, home, car? Could your daily “medicine” be personalized to your DNA to maximize the therapeutic effect and add 100 years to your life? Could your city be designed to minimize pollution, traffic, and crime? Could an Alexa-like speaker be my 8-year-old’s best tutor – teaching her everything from speaking Chinese to modern history to data science?
- Investor. If we know the wave is coming, why wouldn’t everyone want to ride it all the way in? But isn’t AI overhyped right now? You know that AI is overhyped when articles are written about whether Taylor Swift can write better lyrics than an AI (oh wait, that’s already happened). Nonetheless, even with all the hype, there will be companies that will grow 1,000-10,000x in the next 10 years. There will be cities whose growth will be fueled primarily by AI-first companies and its related ecosystems. Isn’t it time to wax up your surfboards?
- Dad. AI may very well be the most transformative development in my kids’ lifetimes. AI will both destroy and create massive amounts of value, and there will be extreme winners and losers that will disrupt our societal fabric. I would never force my kids into pursuing a career in AI, but I do want to give them some footing on how AI will impact their lives. In high school, I learned to
speakmemorize Spanish. When my kids get to high school, why wouldn’t they learn to speak AI?
- Entrepreneur. There are countless ways AI can be deployed in every little nook and cranny of our economy. For example, at FDAzilla, we are already on the edge of the data science to help ensure drug quality and safety. The opportunities are almost limitless. It’s a fun time to be an explorer, I’m looking for spots to put a stake in the ground.
We are about to experience a very dramatic time in history. Our very way of life will be tested. Most of all, we will all be confronted with this most important question, “What is the most important question?” We need to answer it, or else AI will deduce the answer for us.