Uncertainty and humility rule in the age of AI

At last week’s AI Summit London I reflected on how much the tech industry has changed.

Not so long ago, a tech conference focusing on the major new industry development (cloud, SaaS, etc) would have been dominated by big vendors confidently pitching out-of-the box solutions to well defined problems. Glitz, hype and bombast aplenty.

But the abiding sense last week was one of cautious optimism in the face of striking uncertainty. There was lots of talk about learning and adapting to new realities; reacting quickly but also inclusively; exercising caution around well-aired ethical risks such as bias and disinformation.

As one wag remarked, ‘no-one ever says they’re in favour of unethical AI’ – and this was reflected in the largely upbeat AI use-cases that were platformed, such as drug discovery, fraud detection, and employee wellness.

In this more risk-averse world, it pays for product vendors to be a little more cautious about the promises they make to their customers. Excellent news for those of us who have acquired strong immunity to tech hype. And whilst there were plenty of traditional start-up pitches biging up their solutions, practitioners also described the difficulty of buying AI technology and tools when they will probably be outdated within 6-12 months.

This strategy was then signed off at the very top, serving as a public declaration of intent to harness the cloud

Speaking to data practitioners at the Summit was a good reminder that today’s AI issues are mostly practical and often humdrum: siloed and poor quality enterprise data, low organisational data literacy and a lack of skilled staff. Although there are islands of expertise and innovation, the vast majority of organisations in both public and private sector are still at a relatively early stage of data maturity.

This is why at Pivotl we emphasise to our clients the importance of preparing the organisation for scaled use of data. It starts with identifying your business goals, the scale of the ambition and detailing how it’s going to happen.

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