The Augmented City is a podcast series that explores the impact of Artificial intelligence on urban life & culture

The O'Reilly AI Conference in San Francisco

The O'Reilly AI Conference in San Francisco

Earlier this month, I attended the O’Reilly Publishing Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco. O’Reilly gathered over 100 of the world’s top Artificial Intelligence researchers, engineers, data scientists, VCs and others to mark the current state of the art for AI, and highlight where the problem areas and challenges remain.

I went to San Francisco partly to witness the recurring Silicon Valley ritual of anointing this or that technology paradigm as the next Big Thing --- the set of technologies, companies and people who will drive the next cycle of innovation and change for larger economy and society. Whether we’re talking about the early Internet, or Google’s web search, or social media and mobile, there’s always some Big Thing that the Bay Area technology ecosystem latches onto and then innovates around at a ferocious pace.

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Circa 2017, AI is the presumptive winner in the current race to be the next Big Thing. However, most speakers concluded that AI won't be the real winner until it makes the jump from academic research and early implementations into something that delivers direct, tangible value that scales. Not surprisingly, the overall theme of the event was called "Putting AI to Work". 

Listeners can go here for a session-by-session breakdown of the four days of the conference. For me, one of the highlights was a keynote by Andrew Ng called "AI is the New Electricity". Sharp-eared listeners will recall that we covered the same idea last year about AI as a utility and new medium for an Augmented City. 

For me, the stand-out point of Andrew's keynote was where he described the attributes of an AI-native company by comparing it to the attributes of an early Internet-native company. If we learned anything about the Internet, it was that a (Shopping Mall) + (a Web Site) NOT = an Internet company. Likewise, a (Tech Company) + (Machine Learning) NOT = an Artificial Intelligence company. With that set-up, Andrew pivoted to ask what principles do you build a native AI company around. The podcast covers his four main points. 

This O’Reilly AI conference gave me a firm answer to an idea we’ve batted around on this podcast about 2017 being the dial-up era of Artificial Intelligence. The answer emerged from multiple speakers and session leaders who spent as much time talking about gaps in our understanding and problem areas as they spoke about the current wonders and potential of AI. This vibe was in step to the technical meetings about the Internet I attended in the late 90s and early 2000s, before the suits took over. 

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https://io9.gizmodo.com/this-artificially-intelligent-boss-means-the-workplace-1730070116

If we go back to late 90s Internet, when a lot of people still had dial up modems, anyone in the industry who knew a little about what was under the hood realized just how much more we could do if we had broadband. But we also knew there was still a lot of work ahead to move the Internet from being a science project becoming part of daily life.

I don’t think AI is going to take 20+ years to reach the same state of affairs. I think we will reach the equivalent of AI’s broadband age much sooner. But many of the same forces, the same talents, and the same foibles are at work with Artificial Intelligence today as with the Internet technology stack 20 years ago.

So buckle up. 

 

 

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