Joe Baguley, VP and CTO EMEA, reflects on one of the most exciting VMworld panels yet
Artificial intelligence is permeating almost every area of technology; it’s something I’ve been talking a lot about publicly for some time and few strategic conversations that I have with customers go by without AI featuring. So, at VMworld Europe 2018, we wanted to get some of the brightest minds together to debate AI. But, crucially, not at the technology level – I was keen to put their considerable intellect to work to cover some of the biggest questions around the future of AI.
I’ve hosted many panel discussions in my time, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more excited about this than an any other. Particularly as, in case you missed it, we had world-renowned physicist, Brian Cox OBE, as a lead panellist.
He opened our debate with fascinating observations on the Fermi Paradox – the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimations for the existence of aliens. At its core, this premise states that in theory, the earth should have been visited by aliens by now. He raised the question of whether AI has sufficient power to enable us to transcend our biology.
It was genuinely fascinating stuff; Brian’s twenty-minute presentation captured the audience’s imagination and had us all stretching our minds.
We then moved on to talk about how to exploit AI in the here and now. It is impacting many businesses and people today, making a positive change and opening up a whole host of new opportunities and innovations. Our brilliant panellists – Sophie Hackford, futurist and AI entrepreneur; Kathryn Parsons MBE, CEO of Decoded, and Alex Champandard, creative.ai – got stuck into a wide-ranging fascinating debate. Much of it was centred on the difference between specific AI and generalist AI. Alex Champandard, for example, believes AI is now just a training tool before we can build fully autonomous systems and sophisticated machines. We currently can’t build machines intelligent enough to do what we do.
Yet that will change soon. Sophie talked about how her excitement around AI was that it’ll be able to solve problems that we as humans are not smart enough to. In her view, we may soon come to a point where organisations will be mandated to use AI like this because we’re unable to make the right decisions that will benefit society in the long term.
And this is the point – AI can be whatever we want it to be. Technology is neither good, nor bad. We, as humans have the capability to programme it for good or evil, for new business decisions and better organisational outcomes.
Any discussion around how best to exploit AI cannot ignore skills, and I wanted to ensure we covered this as it’s front of mind for many of our customers. Kathryn Parsons shed light on how coding will need to adapt for the new AI era, citing the example of retinal eye scans at Moorfield Eye Hospital, which, are more accurate than human diagnoses. But, only a small handful of people know how to use these tools and we need to make sure far more people have the skills to programme them and find new skillsets around them.
So, a truly fascinating debate. This was meant as just a brief summary – stay tuned for more insights from the panel over the coming weeks.