The Future of Artificial Intelligence in 2021
Artificial intelligence in the pandemic has grown rapidly. Yahoo Finance spoke to IBM about progress in 2021 and where companies can continue to improve.
ADAM SHAPIRO: However, we're going to shift gears and talk about what AI and advances in artificial intelligence - what's next in 2021? Where is it all going? Better to discuss this than Rob Thomas, senior vice president of IBM's cloud and data platform. Thank you for joining us.
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I did ... because I had this very detailed note from your people about what IBM is already doing with AI in the real world. And you have examples. And we're talking about the Watson computer by the way, right. GlaxoSmithKline, PayPal, GM Financial - How do I interact when I go to these places with IBM's AI? Then what comes to the pike?
ROB THOMAS: First of all, thank you for having me. It's been an amazing year for AI as we've seen it accelerate with the pandemic. We have seen that adoption in companies has increased from 4% to 14%. Now I'd say we're pushing for 20%. And you've used some of our great references using AI for things like virtual assistants, for AI operations, and automating the management of their IT systems.
AI is starting to change the way business is done. I would say the most important lesson we learned is that there is no AI without an IA, which is information architecture. You have to have data to do AI. Many of these projects are about how we help companies understand their data and prepare their data for AI.
- Rob, surely the promise of AI - Artificial Intelligence - is not artificial. It's super real. You talk about, you take this data. You process it. You will get actionable insights for these companies. I think one of the big questions out there - and I think you addressed this in your note - is trust. And you know, a lot of times we talk about AI from a consumer perspective, how I might interact with a company that uses AI. But from a business point of view - from your customer's point of view - we would like to understand how important trust is and how you honor that trust.
ROB THOMAS: Many people got their first experience with AI through a consumer use case, like photos on Instagram or something similar. AI in a business context is actually very different. And with Watson we are concentrating on three areas: Language, i.e. how a company understands all of its documents and all of its communication; In terms of automation, we talked a little about automating customer service and automating IT operations. The third is trust. How do you understand all of the AI that you have in your company?
How can you trust the decisions made? If you're in a regulated industry like telco or financial services, you need to be able to demonstrate to a regulator that you understand how AI makes decisions. So trust is the big third aspect of how we think about AI for businesses. But all three are very important. You have to have an understanding of language. You need automation. And everything has to be trustworthy, because this is the only way AI can really be scaled for companies.
ADAM SHAPIRO: As a consumer, when you talk about language, automation and trust, I was chatting with companies and I didn't know if I had a person or an AI. Does this trust component carry over to me, the consumer? Is that what you want to say about GM Financial and the Watson assistant, for example? I mean, you say 50% to 60% of the live chat was about AI.
ROB THOMAS: It's always about making human interaction more efficient as in many of these cases you are still a customer service rep. But AI makes them more productive and helps them solve the problem better. And in everything we do in AI, we think trust and transparency are key. That's why we set up an AI ethics committee.
So we focus very much on being transparent so that our customers understand how AI is being used in their environment. One of the things that was announced just last week is what I would call nutritional labeling for AI - something we developed with an IBM study called Fact Sheets. For every AI you run, you can basically get a nutrition label that shows exactly how it's used and what data is being fed into it. We think this is really important for any company that wants to do AI.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Rob, as long as it's gluten free, you'll likely get a hit. Forgive me for my bad mood. Rob Thomas is senior vice president of IBM's cloud and data platform. Thank you for joining us here at Yahoo Finance.
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