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Davos 2017: Nine Notes for AI Mavens
Kalyan Kumar Chief Technology Officer and Head, Ecosystems | January 25, 2017

In my pre-event blog - ‘Improving the State of the World  - I dwelt on discussion areas, key movements, and suggested outcomes for the 47th World Economic Forum (WEF).

As I ponder on the multiple scenarios that found articulation at the forum and sieve through a gamut of considerations, I believe a future trend holds significant potential: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a tour-de-force; a revolutionary driver of change that will transform society, business, economics, culture and human endeavor as we know it.    

Artificial Intelligence (#AI) is a tour-de-force; a revolutionary driver of change that will transform business.                                     

During his session, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had spoken at length on an unexpected surge towards an AI dominated world – a motion so fast and sudden, that “I did not pay attention to it at all.”

Today, Sergey accepts the ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence: “It touches every single one of our main projects, ranging from search to photos to ads … everything we do.” 

I would have to agree with him. For decades, I have been working in Information Technology, and I am just as amazed by the transformative power of AI. And what’s more, AI is moving at a pace that’s beyond our imagination.

If this discussion on the capacity of AI grabs your attention, and if you’re interested in its implications – here is a compendium of nine key takeaways that distills all that it has to offer:

AI Note #1: Unraveling opportunities. I am not surprised to see how AI reigned supreme across every tech-discussion at the WEF 2017. A principle reason for its growing popularity is the unimaginable, yet foreseeable level of possibilities embedded in machine learning.

AI Note #2: Synergizing prosperity. While self-driving cars are a tantalizing prospect, it’s enthralling to consider its overwhelming impact on society.

What will be the fate of the traditional cab driver? How would the automobile industry absorb and address this change? Will these cutting edge vehicles eliminate pollution and reduce accident scenarios?

We may not have answers to these questions yet; but the writing’s on the wall – everything that we are talking about is only a bend away, and it’s essential we consider how these changes would affect lower and middle income groups.

AI Note #3: Envisioning globalization. The world is yet to completely address our basic challenge – the uneven distribution of wealth, the hegemony of a specific strata, and the sufferings of the poor and deprived remain a burning reality.

Yet, tech-innovation could spearhead a genuine transformation and bridge the chasm between the rich and the underprivileged.

Artificial Intelligence has a plethora of benefits which are just as applicable to the weakest sections of our society. Consider how the birth of smartphones educated and empowered every income group, allowing a democratization of knowledge and information.

AI Note #4: Enabling engagement. The AI generation must be trained and ready; Automation can hardly drive a paradigm shift unless its users are equipped to harness its many features.

I believe in the homogeneity of the human and AI – where each augments the other’s capabilities. Let us lead this learning curve, re-orient our customers, and redefine how AI is perceived and deployed.

AI Note #5: Augmenting expertise. Artificial Intelligence just work towards empowering and expanding workforce expertise – fostering collaboration and connectedness.

Replacement is never the smarter alternative. It’s imperative then to strategically re-skill and create a future-proof pool of resources. Believe you me, AI will only break barriers to employment.

AI Note #6: Ensuring creativity. In this environment, creativity will be the one true value-driver, with hitherto mundane jobs being automated.

Meaningful tasks, greater responsibilities, and intelligent self-involvement define the way ahead. Work will become a perfect blend of vibrancy, vision, and sharper focus.

As IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty says, “Jobs of tomorrow will not be white collar or blue collar; rather people will do things faster due to technology and spend their time doing what they really are meant to be doing”. 

AI Note #7: Streamlining GTM. Understanding the phenomenal value proposition driving AI is only part of the process; what’s needed is a roadmap for a fast and seamless go-to-market strategy. In fact, enterprises today are primarily grappling with speed and effective roll-out of AI tools.

AI Note #8: Shifting horizons. The future is always just a step away - and yet so far. We are at a tipping point in digitization, but there are areas that remain beyond our grasp – machine intelligence that’s akin to the human brain, intuitive, adaptive and empathetic – these are still milestones for tomorrow.

AI Note #9: Dissolving anxieties. For those of you who are inspired beyond words by AI, this is an era like no other and you may be waiting in intense anticipation for the next giant stride. Given how rapidly this territory is taking shape, it’s essential we stay ready for the next AI wave.

Only a future-ready generation can make the best use of Artificial Intelligence – it’s the duty of businesses, governments, societies and individuals to prepare for the inevitable.