AI is good or not, is not the question…

I was doing a demo for Ycenter’s latest technology learning platform that is focused on delivering courses on Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation and Leadership skills. We use a combination of Artificial Intelligence (conversational bots used for teaching basics) and context-based activities that adapt the content based on your interest. Trust me it’s not that fancy. Using Chabot guides on Medium combined with some caffeinated late nights, I was able to find low to no coding options to create these bots for our first beta prototype.

In the room, there were two people I was giving this demo to, a top business school professor and a middle school teacher. The professor loved what he was seeing mainly because the bot almost acts as a Teaching Assistant and does a lot of his work. The school teacher’s first reaction was a question to me — Don’t you think this is very scary, it can put teachers out of job. And without any flinch, I shot back at him, saying absolutely NO. He asked me to explain and I said — AI, is good or bad is not the question, it’s what people use it for is what needs to be questioned and kept in check. He didn’t necessarily agree with me at that point. I am sure he kept thinking about this and I decided to publish my debut article on Medium about it.

Since then, I spoke to a few more people about this working on their AI projects and saw videos on Elon Musk’s fear about AI to Satya Nadella’s zealous attitude to using it to solve real-world problems at Microsoft. Also as a Global Shaper at World Economic Forum, AI and Automation replacing jobs or rather displacing jobs, is a hot topic that I often get engaged in. WEF’s Founder Prof. Klaus Schwab wrote about this in his book — The Fourth Industrial Revolution. I realized that in all these conversations, no one is saying, we will find out about AI in the future. It is good or bad, whether you like it or not, it is already here. Maybe you have read about it on the go or completely ignored it so far, it is time for you to get some serious reading time invested in this topic. It is not a passing trend, it’s our shared reality. Now is also your time to start having conversations and get an equity in the conversations around you.

Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft

Think about 10 years ago, when social media was an option and if you didn’t know about Facebook initially, you eventually did catch up with no option left. And once everyone you knew was on it — there were two kinds of people — “I am going to post as much as I can, I love sharing and connecting” and other kinds that have an account made and even did some activity initially but eventually gave up posting, fearing they don’t want these companies to be tracking their moods using data. I know many people who don’t post much but that doesn’t mean they don’t use social media. They probably spend the same amount of time on it, if not more, checking out their friends’ updates or just catching up on trends. The reality is that you post it or not, if you use social media login to access your favorite apps or even if you spending time on it for clicking on news articles, it is getting enough information on you to start shaping a character persona for you. If you want to understand Facebook tracking in the simplest sense, click on an advertisement on Facebook and select hide ad and then click Why am I seeing this ad? It will tell you what Facebook thinks about you and how companies think of you. This is not to be confused with AI but to understand the rapid integration of new technologies in our lives, whether we want it or not.

In earlier days of social media, we joked that the real conversations are going to be replaced by social media conversations in the future. And that revolutions and fights will happen over social media. In the 2017 USA elections, debates between voters happened on social media platforms and possibly the election was influenced or shaped by some of the sponsored ads too. Well, it took only about 5 years for that “future” to become a solid present and a dark reality for many. No wonder we start seeing Black Mirror and feel that we are heading towards it. But you do not have to be a techno-skeptic based on a fictional tv show meant for binge-watching made to look like a serious social commentary on the possible negative impact of excessive technology in our lives, while all it does is to help NFLX price go up. (That is my shallow view on how stock works)

So, when we talk about — let us wait and watch what AI will do to us in the future. We have to understand that this future is already here. It will start becoming present in just a few months and completely integrated into our lives in less time than social media + ongoing big data revolution. You can expect to see it getting into your lives through daily banking, insurance, journalism (AI is already articles and you probably might have read one, I promise this is written by a human), investment (robo advisors are already making money for millennials investing using phone apps) retail, entertainment on demand, healthcare, devices at our home and of course education (we are putting in our higher-ed online platform EPIC and many others are doing it as well).

And by the way, if you are completely new to AI — It stands for Artificial Intelligence and it also stands for Appreciative Inquiry.

According to E.H. Kessler, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Management Theory, Sage Publications, 2013 — “Appreciative Inquiry (AI) stands for a methodology for studying and changing social systems (groups, organizations, communities) that advocates collective inquiry into the best of what is in order to imagine what could be, followed by collective design of a desired future state that is compelling and thus, does not require the use of incentives, coercion or persuasion for planned change to occur.” Sounds like Artificial Intelligence to me, co-incidence?! ;-)


Bonus Video: I was training the bot at Ycenter to perform basic conversation with students. Check it out. If you enjoyed this, give me a clap and if you are interested in discussing and talking more about AI and Education, let’s connect. I will be speaking about this at the upcoming SXSW EDU conference in Texas, Austin.

Ycenter conversational bot training video