How to drop off your AI kids on their first day of school

Chris Greenough

Businesses are nervously approaching the chasm, whence they must take a leap of faith into a new technology

As a teacher, my mom was famed for weaving stories of her three children into her psychology lessons. One of her favourites was about the first day of school, from a mother’s perspective. I, being the eldest and first, was royally escorted hand-in-hand by my mother — all the way to my desk so she could have some peace of mind. The next year, my brother and I were more confidently dropped off at the door with a kiss and a wave out the car window. By the third year, my mom sent that same kiss and wave from the front door of our house as my brother, sister, and I marched to school on foot.

Nearing the end of 2017, Artificial Intelligence is approaching its second ‘first day’. Considering that John McCarthy coined the term back in 1955, it’s about time. Just like my mom who had one foot out the car as my brother and I trod into school, businesses are nervously approaching the chasm, whence they must take a leap of faith into a new technology.

Crossing the chasm

Part of the challenge is overcoming how we perceive the risks of AI. Incumbent businesses are inherently risk adverse; they take in every detail of their surroundings, process it and strategise a course forward. Coincidentally, this is exactly how AI was developed in the 70’s. But researchers soon found that this method caused paralysis in the robots as they worked to (over)assess their environment.

It wasn’t until the late 80’s when researchers like Rodney Brooks rethought how an AI could operate – maybe you don’t need an immense amount of information in order to interact with the world?

When my mom first dropped me off at school, school was a black, ominous box filled with unknown risks. She felt the need to gather data to ensure both she and I could navigate that space safely. But, by her third ‘first day’, she trusted that we were trained enough to navigate the world, without necessarily knowing everything about it, equipped with the tools to learn as we went.

Also discuss: e27 discussions, is Artificial Intelligence an existential risk to humanity?

As a business, understanding this analogy is crucial to successfully dropping off your first AI to school as well. Here are things that you can do:

  1. Educate yourself on what is/is not possible with AI and machine learning so you won’t be oversold or over-sceptical
  2. Choose a high-value problem that has a real impact on your business. You want to end your first project looking like a champ.
  3. Have a clear initiative that is achievable in 90 days. Try to remove red tapes and limit the number of stakeholders who need to give input. Dragging out a proof-of-concept is a lose-lose scenario.

Good luck!

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Chris is the CMO & Co-founder of HYPERLAB who builds Cognitive Agents for leading enterprises in Asia with their advanced stack of artificial intelligence solutions.

Does your business need to go back to school? HYPERLAB offers an immersive 2-Day Bot Dojo for enterprise management. Learn key AI concepts, work on case studies and build your own prototype so that you too can confidently launch your first bot into the world.

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