Michael Weis and Gil Makleff On The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

An Interview With David Leichner

David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum
Authority Magazine

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The potential to do things that were impossible in the past: This speaks for itself. Earlier, we mentioned solutions like advanced large language models and proxy meeting attendance. These represent evolution.

As part of our series about the future of Artificial Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Weis, the Director of Business Development Global Retail for Speech Processing Solutions and Gil Makleff, the CEO of Sembly AI.

Michael possesses a deep knowledge of the global Consumer Electronics industry and trade, with a strong focus on understanding consumer insights and translating them into product propositions and communication. He often establishes and works in new business segments with growth potential.

Gil is a highly accomplished entrepreneur and transformational leader with a successful track record spanning decades. He has served as CEO at UMT and UMT Consulting Group and has sold software to Microsoft and a consulting business to Ernst & Young. Gil’s exceptional leadership and innovative mindset have been integral to shaping and transforming numerous organizations throughout his career, making him a respected thought leader and change agent in the industry.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path in AI?

Gil: My decision to pursue a career path in AI was driven by my experience in the corporate world, where I recognized a need to apply AI principles to enhance the efficiency of working teams. In particular, I saw a tremendous opportunity to provide value by addressing something that has always been one of my biggest frustrations — meetings.

The problem, in many cases, is that in-house technology and operations teams do not receive sufficient attention. They’re an afterthought, especially when compared to commercial app development teams and customer-facing roles in an organization. As a result, there are gaps that create friction in people’s work lives. Those gaps are becoming more readily apparent as our working environments evolve into more hybrid models.

Within this dynamic, AI can deliver genuinely transformative benefits. Thus, I decided to explore how AI could be used to make meetings more efficient and improve related outcomes. It’s not something that any one group can achieve alone — hence the partnership with Michael’s team — but it’s an exciting opportunity to meet the moment for the future of work.

Michael: I completely agree with Gil — we have a fantastic opportunity today. I have a long history and a lot of experience with speech-to-text and voice-processing technologies. When the pandemic brought massive changes to our working lives, I also became interested in how AI could add value to traditional work processes. So, I started scanning the market, and Gil and I met. We didn’t have the term “hybrid working” at the time, but it was clear to both of us that the future of work demanded better offline/online meeting recording and processing options than those that have existed up until now.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Michael: Although I think we both recognize that our stories are ongoing, we agree that there’s one significant lesson others can learn. It’s to not fear change. Change is an inherent and ever-present factor in our lives, and those engaged in any business must remain open to embracing new ways of working that keep pace with current cultural and behavioral adaptations. We believe it’s necessary to be vigilant and aware of up-and-coming advances and to capitalize on the potential of groundbreaking technologies fully.

As AI continues to evolve and offer unprecedented value, companies must re-evaluate their business models and adapt accordingly. For instance, ChatGPT is an excellent example of how AI can revolutionize communication and transform customer experiences. We’ve both learned that by being receptive to change and embracing technological advancements, individuals and businesses can achieve remarkable success in the rapidly evolving world.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Michael: It’s really amazing to think about how much has changed in just a few years. In today’s “hybrid 2.0” work environment, companies must ensure that everybody has access to the right information, and opportunities to collaborate, independent of whether they work in the office, from home, or even from another country. At the same time, people are demanding more efficiency from the process so they can achieve a better work/life balance.

So, we’re looking at how to make better use of time and transform business meetings into action. To do that, Speech Processing Solutions and Sembly AI are partnering to develop a comprehensive solution that combines trusted audio/video recording capabilities with advanced AI analysis.

Just about everybody now knows how to jump on a virtual meeting and record it, right? But is that the best use of everyone’s time and talent? Often not. What’s so exciting now is how we’re working to combine speech-to-text, workflows, and AI in new ways.

Gil: It’s a fascinating project, Ask Your Semblian, that involves leveraging the power of large language models to enhance user experience and productivity. With Ask Your Semblian, users can communicate with an intelligent assistant in a conversational tone without needing precise terminology. It can craft personalized messages highlighting the key takeaways from the meeting and gain insights into the efficiency of meetings. Also, we have introduced the ability to invite an automated “agent” to attend meetings in your place — in other words, proxy attendance that enables asynchronous communication.

Michael: The proposition here is essentially to make AI a new team member. Through seamless integration, people can continue to meet however they do now because it will work across platforms, which is vital.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Michael: I would say it’s not a particular person but teams of people. Behind any real innovation, you’ll always find teamwork and collaboration.

Gil: I agree 100%. In every endeavor I’ve worked on, the reason for success was shared across the team. Success comes from collaboration, trust, and the ability to create communities of people working to achieve a joint goal.

Michael: Our partnership is a great example. Right now, we’re engaged in a highly collaborative team effort between two companies to deliver a solution that can strengthen work communities. With the new SmartMeeting solution you don’t have to attend a meeting in person. But attending meetings differently immediately brings up the fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’ as it is often referenced. It also means you must trust the quality of the solution. So, first and foremost, we as teams ourselves are adapting to the new technologies we develop. We are learning to trust the excellent recording quality provided by the hardware and the strength of the AI software to deliver the outcomes we need.

Gil: Very true. I’m a firm believer in team-oriented cultures, not micro-managed ones. This type of atmosphere is unique, but it promotes transparency in communication, fosters a supportive environment, and empowers individuals to focus on their strengths and opportunities for collaboration.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

We would propose:

  1. AI for Social Good: Many organizations are using AI to address some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality. AI has the potential to provide insights and solutions that could help us address these challenges more effectively.
  2. Advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP): NLP has come a long way, and advancements in this field have resulted in significant improvements in speech recognition, chatbots, and text-to-speech technologies. With these developments, it is now possible to build AI systems that can understand and interpret human language more accurately, making communication with machines more natural and intuitive.
  3. The potential to do things that were impossible in the past: This speaks for itself. Earlier, we mentioned solutions like advanced large language models and proxy meeting attendance. These represent evolution.
  4. Collaborative AI evokes creativity and opportunity: Facilitating collaboration between humans and machines gives us more time to exercise our uniquely human creativity and ingenuity.
  5. Sustainability impact: The pandemic caused many people (and organizations) to re-think the extensive resources spent on business travel. Thanks to new AI technologies, online meetings can offer more sustainable ways to stay on track. Still, there’s something to be said for having drinks together at the hotel bar after long meetings — which is something AI can’t do. So, hybrid work/life for the win!

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

This is our collective list:

  1. Rapid adoption/slow adaptation. While adopting new technologies or strategies may occur swiftly, adaptation to these changes is usually a slow process.
  2. Governance. AI governance is hugely important in the early stages of AI adoption to ensure — broadly speaking — the effective uses of AI. Without risk management, regulatory compliance, and a framework for ethical AI usage, this could easily spin out of control. Jay Forrester’s System Dynamics is based on the idea that “human” factors are often trickier to navigate than “technology.” With regard to AI, we’ll need to invest enormous amounts of time in think tanks to envision potential outcomes, with government involvement.
  3. Misconceptions. Too many people fear that AI will replace humans in the workplace. Our response to those people is: AI will not replace you, but humans who use AI will!
  4. Misuse. Technologies are neither inherently good nor bad; it’s how we use them. So, we must guard against misuse even as we enjoy technology’s benefits.
  5. Imbalanced adoption across the world. Similar to misuse, we must ensure that imbalanced adoption of technology doesn’t widen gulfs between those who have it and those who don’t.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

The recent publicity and product launches by Microsoft, Google, and other players in the AI industry have clearly brought to the forefront how important it is to understand both the AI we use today and where AI developments are headed. As impressive as they might be, most use cases available to consumers today are what’s known as “narrow AI.” These are applications focused on solving a specific task. Chatbots are one example. Such tools support humans through improved productivity and efficiency and customer experiences — and that’s the field where we play.

The bigger question is how fast Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will develop. AGI is a theoretical application of AI to solve any problem; it’s where machines exhibit human intelligence. Every step forward in narrow AI gets us one step closer to AGI, and that is where the danger lies if left uncontrolled. With risks to society and humanity, we have to learn to understand the impacts of such transformative technologies before we get caught up in an out-of-control race of powerful applications.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

We believe that public conversations among those driving innovation, as well as companies releasing such technology, are very important. Non-profit organizations like Future of Life Institute are necessary to guide the conversation and help define regulatory and ethical frameworks for new transformative technology developments. This will help the greater public to better understand technology advancements and also serve to protect the public from large risks that might come with those advancements.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Gil: Outside of my professional life, I enjoy contributing to volunteer activities and organizations. Habitat for Humanity is one organization I work with a lot, as well as other groups that help provide meals and address other essential needs.

Within my professional life, I support our team in Ukraine in managing the difficult transition caused by the full-scale war. But every day, I feel fortunate to be advancing an entirely new work ecosystem.

Michael: For me, it’s gratifying to consider how our long-established voice technology can complement new AI-driven technology to drive better outcomes while humanizing the workplace. The whole goal is to save time on routine work so that we have more time for creative work or leisure with family and friends. It’s about reintroducing the work/life balance we all so badly need.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

Gil: Indeed, there aren’t many women in AI at the moment, but it’s important to recognize that the nature of AI is changing. What used to be a rather mathematical discipline in machine learning is segueing into generative AI models.

We need to consider this change and promote:

- Positive role models: Highlighting successful women in AI can help inspire and motivate young women to pursue careers in the field. Organizations can provide platforms to showcase their achievements and contributions. (Mira Murati, CTO of OpenAI is a great example).

- Creating inclusive environments: Creating inclusive work environments that embrace diversity and inclusion can attract more women to the industry. Employers can promote diversity and inclusion by offering equal opportunities, fair pay, and flexible work arrangements.

- Fostering collaboration: Encouraging collaboration and teamwork can foster a sense of community and belonging, which can help retain women in the industry. Networking opportunities can be created through conferences, events, and professional organizations.

Michael: I have a very short answer to this: I have four girls at home ranging in age from 23 to 9 years old. From the very beginning, we’ve tried to teach our kids to focus on their strengths regardless of any gender-related notions about the field of study. For sure, a lot still has to happen in the coming years to reach equality. But as Gil mentioned, nowadays new technologies offer exciting opportunities that make AI attractive for a much larger audience than some years ago.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

Gil: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It’s a quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein, although there’s doubt about whether he really said it.

Michael: Nice quote, Gil — I like it! In the last year, I’ve increasingly been drawn to the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Currently, we are facing multiple challenges in our daily lives. Everybody needs to understand that every single person can be part of the solution, but only when we are all able to adapt for change. It’s another lesson that I try to teach my daughters.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Michael: We could both get behind a couple of “movement” ideas. The first would be a movement to reintroduce humanity to the workplace by improving work/life balance. We’ve all started thinking differently about work/life balance over the past few years. That trend needs to continue. In parallel, we need to cultivate more efficient and positive workplace cultures in order to engage the next generation.

Gil: Agreed! In addition, I’d like to see the creation of an organization that involves young people in open dialogue about future-facing topics — especially those that don’t get much attention. For instance, one topic could be “the influence of AI on the future of our lives.”

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow the progress on our collaboration, or our LinkedIn pages:

Michael’s LinkedIn

Gil’s LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About The Interviewer: David Leichner is a veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications. At Cybellum, a leading provider of Product Security Lifecycle Management, David is responsible for creating and executing the marketing strategy and managing the global marketing team that forms the foundation for Cybellum’s product and market penetration. Prior to Cybellum, David was CMO at SQream and VP Sales and Marketing at endpoint protection vendor, Cynet. David is the Chairman of the Friends of Israel and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Jerusalem Technology College. He holds a BA in Information Systems Management and an MBA in International Business from the City University of New York.

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David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum
Authority Magazine

David Leichner is a veteran of the high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications