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AI Frontiers Conference
Day 1 of the AI Frontiers Conference

The annual AI Frontiers Conference is a three-day conference designed to deliver the latest breakthroughs, trends and prediction in AI to practitioners, academics, businesses and startups. The conference recently took place at the San Jose Convention Center from Nov. 9 to 11, 2018, bringing together experts from AI giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and AI rising stars like OpenAI, Uber, and Udacity. We had an opportunity to present one of the AI workshops on natural language processing, as well as attend the conference, and wanted to share our top three takeaways from the conference.

1.) AI is prevalent across industries

AI no longer refers to theoretical research at academic institutions or R&D labs; instead, it is a foundational technology that is disrupting society and driving innovations in key industries. From the way we get to work, to how doctors identify and treat diseases, AI is poised to forge a future of endless new possibilities. Some key industries taking advantage of AI include healthcare and finance. For example, in healthcare AI is used to predict diseases, identify high-risk patient groups, automate diagnostic tests and to increase speed and accuracy of treatment. It can also be used to improve drug formulations, predictive care, and DNA analysis that can positively impact quality of healthcare and affect human lives. Another key industry is Finance. Banks are already using AI to streamline their formerly manual processes for tracking data, saving time and maximizing cost benefits. The new horizon? Leveraging AI beyond internal processes to inform consumer interaction. As the finance world grows and develops with this technology, the next step is machine learning that changes and adapts to improve fraud detection and provides smarter customer service by conversing with users every day. By using AI to inform both consumer-facing and internal processes, the potential return on investment can be huge.

2.) AI redefines what it means to be human

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee has been at the center of the AI revolution for more than 30 years. For his Ph.D. thesis at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Lee developed the world’s first speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system. Today, he is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sinovation Ventures, as well as President of its Artificial Intelligence Institute. He spoke at the conference and his message was that AI is giving our society a wake-up call. Currently, so much of our time is spent on busywork and repetitive work, which will largely be automated in the age of AI. Yet, key attributes such as creativity and empathy cannot be substituted by machines or data. Organizations in the world of AI will require people to excel at connecting with others and gaining people’s trust. Many transactions are already occurring online, but high-end corporate sales will require the ability to build long-term customer relationships. “My advice to employees would be to become lifelong learners, always looking for the next skill and never believing that the next 10 years will be like the previous decade,” he stressed. There’s a widening skills gap between traditional and machine-augmented work, but it also creates a real need for new training, new types of experts, and, ultimately, a shift from the workforce we know to a workforce open to new possibilities, as far as new skills, productivity, and contributions by humans made hand-in-hand with machines.

3.) AI goes mainstream faster than imagined

Some of the biggest brands on the planet are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence, betting on everything from face-scanning smartphones and consumer gadgets to computerized health care and self-driving cars. It’s also worth noting that AI has quickly gone mainstream in popular consumer devices such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home Assistant. And this trend is happening faster than many could have imagined just a few years ago. As companies embrace the transformative potential of AI, they have been snapping up all the available talent from the relatively small pool of scientists and technicians trained in artificial intelligence, and its sub-disciplines, machine learning and deep learning. As the scarcity of people with the requisite knowledge and abilities has deepened, those companies have been cultivating efforts to up-skill AI skills across their workforce. Making a success of AI in an organization ultimately rests upon diversity: diversity of thinking, of personnel, and of skillsets. On-boarding team members from across the organization, maintaining a critical and inclusive hiring policy, and implementing a cohesive workforce transformation initiative to up-skill and re-skill personnel are vital to bridge the skills gap.

The conference provided a front-row seat of the frontiers of AI and machine learning and highlighted some extraordinary breakthroughs in various industries. As AI technologies become a reality, companies and their workforce must keep up –

And they must do so quickly.

Find out how Udacity Enterprise is helping companies transform their workforce to remain competitive.