The AI Summit: Let’s Get Over the Hype, the Future is Now

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  • December 11, 2017
  • Ariel Miller

Despite the recent hype, artificial intelligence (AI) is no new concept. In fact, some might be surprised to learn it was founded as an academic discipline more than 60 years ago. Fast forward to 2017, and businesses are still very much grappling with how to harness the power of AI to drive meaningful change. Many aren’t even sure where to start. This challenge seemed to be the central theme of the AI Summit in NYC, which I had the pleasure of attending last week, joining 1000+ fellow AI enthusiasts from around the world.

Over the course of two days, I heard from executives with roles spanning data science to HR on the state of AI, where it’s going, and how they’re using AI today in practical application. Probably coming as no surprise as someone working closely with the industry itself, my favorite track from the conference focused on the intersection of AI and the media, featuring speakers from BuzzFeed, Associated Press and the New York Times.

Yes, we all know and love BuzzFeed for their cat GIFs and recipe videos, but after hearing from Gil Lotan, Head of Data Science, it became clear that behind the fun, there’s a lot of strategy going on over at BuzzFeed. Gil kicked off his session by saying, “We’re obsessed with giving every piece of content a fair opportunity to reach the right audience” – a statement that really stuck with me, as that hyper-specific audience philosophy is one we take seriously at INK.

So how exactly do you do that? Throughout his talk, Gil shared how BuzzFeed is using machine learning and AI to get content in front of the right audiences, and to make thoughtful, valuable recommendations. He addressed some of the challenges, like the “hot dog problem” – where automated recommendations fail to distinguish between a hot dog (food) and dog (animal); and how they’ve overcome those challenges by incorporating other tech, like LSTM (long-term-short-memory) networks and Slack bots to vet content.

It’s no secret that in today’s landscape, reporters are overstretched, covering multiple beats and burning the midnight oil. In the AP and NYT talks, I was excited to hear how AI is helping free up reporters’ time for more in-depth pieces, as many data-intensive stories (think – earnings reports or sports recaps) can largely be automated. As Francesco Marconi, AI Lead at AP put it, in today’s “oversupplied ecosystem” of content, it’s never been more important to leverage the power of technology where we can.

Outside of the media world, I learned at the Summit that AI is helping Unilever reinvent the campus recruiting process to expand its talent pool. It’s helping NASA determine the possibility for life outside Earth by exploring Europa. It’s helping GlaxoSmithKline change an HIV diagnosis from a death sentence to a managed disease by keeping more patients in care.

AI has the potential to not only improve business, but also to make the world a better place. The opportunities are endless, and while it’s hard to say exactly what the future holds, I can’t wait to see where we go from here.