Just out of the 15th International Conference of the Italian Association of Artificial Intelligence (AIIA- http://www.aixia2016.unige.it/) that kindly hosted my keynote in Genova (the slide deck I proposed is here: http://www.slideshare.net/pieroleo/cognitive-computing-challenges-and-opportunities-in-building-an-artificial-intelligence-platform-for-business). A video replay of the speech is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LntNIMULiAw&t=854s
I attended to several Artificial Intelligence (AI) events like that one during last 25 years and so. I remember very well my first participation in the early AIIA workshops in Milan early ’90 or ECML in ’93. Things changed during the time but, at the same time, they remained the same.
Old and new faces at the same time, old and new themes.
One of the question I received from the audience, among others, let me thought more than others. The question came out just after I highlighted the approach IBM is following in building an AI platform to support Business (https://www.ibm.com/investor/strategy/)
More or less the question was this: “You presented the IBM AI strategy, it is a complex stuff. But, in my community, I am a researcher, I am like a violin, I am typically a soloist, where can we find our orchestra director?”
I think this is one of the main challenge that every kind of organizations is facing right now about Artificial Intelligence: public AI research organizations (at various levels) as well as private research organizations (both considering companies that are willing to provide complex or small AI platforms and services like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc and hundreds of AI start-ups) but also all AI (real and potential) customers and users, that is the rest of the world.
AI is a complex topic, of course, right now. Independently from the claims that we can read about its potential, or the hyper phantasmagorical, positive or negative, potential it has.
We started with (Big) Data few years ago, and we understood that this was one of the key ingredients of the transformation of our societies and we are now at different level of maturity in a sort of post-Big Data era in which we are trying to go deep into the Big Data itself: we are starting to use data to be more “precise” with the help of AI.
But the main question if we need an “orchestra director” in all organizations that offer or use AI or not remains there.
Do we need a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO) as Andrew Ng was claiming in this post? (Hiring Your First Chief AI Officer https://hbr.org/2016/11/hiring-your-first-chief-ai-officer).
Adrew Ng writes that CAIO should follow the same path of other game-change professions in past century like “Electricity Vice President”. This last was an Active role in all major companies when electricity was gong to replace steam and other forms of energy sources. At that time companies needed to figure out how and which path to follow for electricity transformation. More recently the role Chief Information Officer played in the e-business era a similar mediation duty: helping companies to leverage Internet as a game-change platform and not just an alternative way to present a description of a company.
So, CAIO, for the reasons above and others, could be the Orchestra Director we need, at different levels.
A company needs CAIO to help to address the company strategy. A public organization needs CAIO to redesign services for citizens and public reduce waste of money.
For instance, in Finance domain AI is already helping organizations to increase market agility or improve customer service. In Retail AI is the key element to personalize customer experience and increase their engagements and reduce costs. In Healthcare AI is already contributing to accelerate innovation of new products and services but also, to improve productivity and mainly enhance security, compliance and reduce risks. Manufacturing companies are employing AI to improve decision making and planning.
In all cases above an embryonic AI Orchestra Director role is emerging, or at least is needed.
Well, could we think that CAIO could help even a research organization (in all disciplines) of an institution to rearrange its priorities and coordinate the research agenda according to the AI contribution?
In general, we could think CAIOs will work at higher levels of abstractions trying to MEDIATE the adoption or the infusion of of AI into a specific domain or context. It is not a simple job, the mediation work needed is at all levels including to help to distinguish things that are feasible to things that are Hollywood exercises or contribution about ethics.
In few years, could we think to see in our governments working a “Minister of Artificial Intelligence” or at the “United Nation Artificial Intelligence Chief“?
Perhaps the United Nation will appoint the Artificial Intelligence Ambassador that will support the growth of under developed Artificial Intelligence communities and countries.
In all cases, I am sure, we will be asked, more and more times, to participate to always active corporate programs likes BYOI – Bring Your Own Intelligence.
Pietro Leo is an Executive Architect in IBM, CTO for Big Data Analytics and Cognitive Computing in IBM Italy, a well-known Innovation Agitator and Analytics maker. Member of the IBM Academy of Technology Leadership Team (#IBMAoT) and Head of IBM Italy Center of Advanced Studies. You can also follow him on Twitter (@pieroleo)