Five (More) Experts Weigh in on AI

By Meg Musante, Managing Editor

As artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly evolves, it’s helpful to take a moment and look closer at how this software has changed so much in a relatively short time frame. From caffeinated beverages crafted by robots to fuel delivery in space aboard an uncrewed spacecraft, AI is being used in new and exciting ways every day. Let’s check in with five more experts to see where this emerging technology is heading, an update from this popular post two years ago.

1. AI has almost every imaginable use case, including the perfect cup of coffee. The Austin-based company Briggo is having a profound impact on its industry and culture through creativity, passion, and of course, robotics. With robots, the latest mobile technology and cloud computing, Briggo is enabling human progress at its core, says COO Marsha Osborn.

“At Briggo, we envision a future in which AI enables us to continue to be a responsible part of the world community.”

—Marsha Osborn, COO, Briggo

“We are connecting all the way back to the farmer and their livelihoods, taking it to the roasters, and then applying that technology in 40 square feet to create that perfect cup of coffee,” says Osborn. “At Briggo, we envision a future in which AI enables us to continue to be a responsible part of the world community.”

2. AI is boosting its emotional intelligence. Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva, is on a mission to build human-centric AI through artificial emotional intelligence, also referred to as Emotion AI—emotion recognition and emotion detection technology. Her company analyzed more than 8 million faces to create an app that can detect emotion in children with autism and drivers’ alertness, as examples.

“We’re building algorithms that can understand all things human: your emotions, your cognitive states, your behaviors, and hopefully weave all that in to make for smarter technology.”

—Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO, Affectiva

People with higher emotional intelligence tend to be more likeable, more persuasive and more successful, says el Kaliouby. “I think that this is equally important for AI that needs to interface and interact with humans. We’re building algorithms that can understand all things human: your emotions, your cognitive states, your behaviors, and hopefully weave all that in to make for smarter technology.”

3. AI is helping the manufacturing industry and the environment at the same time. Ed Henry, senior data scientist at Dell Technologies, is “all in” on machine learning and its applied uses in the manufacturing industry. This emerging technology is optimizing delivery routes by burning as little fuel as possible and minimizing our carbon footprint, among other benefits, says Henry. “Businesses have a responsibility to do this for the environment.”

“Say you’re a car manufacturer and you’re sourcing different metals for your car assembly. You want to keep your Green House Gas emissions as low as possible throughout the entire lifecycle of building that car,” Henry says. “When you add machine learning to additive manufacturing and recent work in materials sciences, car companies can minimize the amount of material needed while maximizing the cars’ structural integrity, leading to a safer overall end user experience,” he says, “a net positive in both cost and human health and safety.”

4. The quest to eliminate bias in AI continues. There’s been a sea of change, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, where most researchers today are strongly considering the ethics associated with AI. Brynjolfsson, the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, says while AI can be used to concentrate wealth and power, it can also lead to a lack of privacy and totalitarianism, and can even exacerbate racism.

“The reason it’s imperfect in the first place is because it’s trained on humans. And guess what? Humans suck…They make mistakes all the time.”

—Erik Brynjolfsson, director, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

While some fear an imperfect machine learning system and believe efforts need to stop until it’s perfect, Brynjolfsson encourages the opposite. “The reason it’s imperfect in the first place is because it’s trained on humans,” he says. “And guess what? Humans suck. Humans are really biased. They make mistakes all the time.”

5. With the rewards AI yields still comes the risk. While there are many wonderful things society can gain from AI and ML, there are also the security vulnerabilities. “It’s like the angel on one shoulder, the devil on the other,” says Mike Crones, CIO of Draper, an engineering innovation company in Massachusetts. “We really need to think about the reality and the risks associated with AI. Compromising some of the cyber that’s wrapped around that can cause it to go incredibly poorly,” he says.

“Ensuring AI can go in a positive direction is really the essential piece.”

—Mike Crones, CIO, Draper

“Ensuring AI can go in a positive direction is really the essential piece” Crones says. But when AI software can learn from its mistakes and show a trend of improvement based on data analysis, that’s when things get valuable, he continues. According to Crones, using AI to advance human progress in helping with surgeries, self-driving cars and even commercial space travel is what it’s all about. For example, flight software developed by Draper is aboard the uncrewed spacecraft the Dream Chaser. Once the Dream Chaser launches to the International Space Station (ISS), its mission to deliver food, supplies and fuel could become more autonomous with AI and ML, Crones says. “This would allow Draper and Sierra Nevada Corporation to better serve the Dream Chaser’s purpose at the ISS. And how cool is that?”