Notes from Reality, An Interview on AI with Vinnie Mirchandani

No one covers large enterprise software ecosystems like Vinnie Mirchandani, Vinnie Mirchandani, founder of Deal Architect, a former technology industry analyst (with Gartner), outsourcing executive (with PwC, now part of IBM) and entrepreneur (founder of sourcing advisory firm, Jetstream Group).

He is a thought leader on trends in software, outsourcing and offshoring. He has personally helped clients evaluate and negotiate technology contracts valued in excess of $ 5 billion and has consistently advised companies on IT risk management, globalization and sourcing issues.

Vinnie is also a friend and a fellow Enterprise Irregular. Here are his thoughts on how transformative AI will be:

JT: Is AI transformative? What are three things AI will do that could not be done before?

VM: Today’s AI will be transformative because it is opening our eyes to all kinds of white collar automation possibilities with massive compute power being able to crunch massive data sets and help on cognitive tasks. Previous generations of automation like robots and drones primarily made agricultural and industrial tasks more productive. Now we can bring the same to cognitive work. When you look at the possibilities IBM has raised with Watson in healthcare, in auditing and many other sectors, Microsoft with Cortana and Amazon with Echo at home with natural user interfaces, you will see all kinds of business use cases being tried out in the next decade. Benioff has already raised interest in how Einstein will evolve the craft and there is plenty of interest in what Salesforce will showcase at Dreamforce.

Having said that, in my new book, Silicon Collar, I also point out AI has raised expectations every few years and not completely delivered since the 1950s. That is when Alan Turing defined his famous test to measure a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to that of a human. In 1959, we got excited when Allen Newell and his colleagues coded the General Problem Solver. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick sent our minds into overdrive with HAL in his movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. We applauded when IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer beat Grandmaster Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997. We were impressed in 2011 when IBM’s Watson beat human champions at Jeopardy! and again in 2016 when Google’s AlphaGo showed it had mastered Go, the ancient board game. Currently, we are so excited about Amazon’s Echo digital assistant/home automation hub and its ability to recognize the human voice, that we are saying a machine has finally passed the Turing Test. Almost.

Yann LeCun, director of AI research at Facebook, has commented, “Despite these astonishing advances, we are a long way from machines that are as intelligent as humans — or even rats. So far, we’ve seen only 5% of what AI can do.”

Similarly, Yale computer science professor David Gelernter thinks we have only scratched the surface. In his book The Tides of Mind, he calls it “the spectrum of consciousness,” which is “essentially a range of mental states through which all humans cycle each day. The cyclical element is crucial and underlies his metaphor of tidal motion. At the upper end of the spectrum, mental high tide, we are focused on the outer world, biased towards logical and abstract reasoning, and more likely to remember our experiences later. But as we drift down through the middle and into the lower reaches of the spectrum, we become increasingly conscious of the inner worlds of memory, prefer narrative to logic, and cross eventually into the difficult-to-remember realms of dreams.”

So, I am cautiously optimistic about this generation of AI — never before have we had so much data or this much affordable cloud enabled computing power to make white collar tasks more precise and efficient. I look forward to learning more about Einstein next month!

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