Enterprise hits and misses - AI gets a fresh evaluation, and offshoring gets a rethink

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed October 7, 2019
Summary:
This week - is AI a tool for big tech supremacy, or a democratizing force? Offshoring alarmists get their reckoning, but they weren't wrong about everything. Blockchain gets skewered and Gartner gets quadranted. Your whiffs include my falling out with Alexa.

King Checkmate

Lead story - Is AI an agent of big tech dominance, or a democratizing force?

MyPOV: It was an AI futures kind of week at diginomica, but this time around, it was not about jobs. Kurt kicked things off with Is AI an agent of big tech hegemony or multi-disciplinary research and innovation?

He pushes back on an alarmist New York Times article about big tech's AI dominance Kurt's reply? "AI hegemony is a myth." Why?

Fears of a big tech monopoly of AI talent and technology are overwrought and comparing the systems required to perform AI research to particle accelerators is absurd... The areas where mega techs like Amazon, Facebook, Google, et al. have a distinct advantage are less due to their AI acumen and more a result of their access to vast amounts of consumer data, be it e-commerce transactions, search results or online interactions.

Deep learning systems crave massive data sets. Access to those data sets, argues Kurt, is the real divide:

If such data repositories are deemed to create unfair competitive asymmetries, the solution isn't an AI technology tax or publicly funded AI server farms, but regulations on the collection, use and sharing of such data.

Meanwhile, Chris parses a seemingly upbeat AI study from Samsung, which found the public to be more informed - and optimistic - about "AI" than I would have expected.

Roughly half of all respondents (51%) believe that AI's impact on society will be positive, 16% that it will be negative, with the remaining one-third of interviewees being ambivalent or unable to answer the question.

Particularly intriguing:

Support is greatest among those who are familiar with the technology and lowest among those who are not.

Not sure where that leaves folks like me, who get more concerned each time a utopian future is flogged by salivating, gee willikers tech vendors the black box is lifted. Chris has issues with some of the survey's approaches - a common affliction with vendor-sponsored surveys. Still, he writes:

Samsung should be commended for trying to counterbalance the negative tabloid narratives and decades of dystopian sci-fi with an outreach programme of techno-evangelism.

However, utopia doesn't fly:

[Samsung] would establish a great deal more credibility for this exercise if it lets the figures speak for themselves, both for and against each question, rather than appear to impose its own utopian narrative.

On a truly upbeat note, Den shares his talk with Vishal Sikka, a long-time AI proponent who now has skin in the AI startup game: Democratizing and demystifying AI - Vianai Systems' approach. Sikka's first question:

How do you make tools that make it dramatically easier for people to use so that millions can take advantage of AI?

Now there's an AI mission I can get behind.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • M&S, Co-Op and Dunnhumby discuss the opportunities and risks of AI in retail - Let's move quickly on to... more AI. But in retail this time, with Derek doing the London event roundup: In terms of justifications for AI, this one's pretty good: "We account for every single minute of a person that works in the store. And we want those minutes to be in front of customers."
  • How the office of the CFO is evolving in mid-market businesses - Den puts on his CFO hat and crunches some data from Brainyard, a research unit for Oracle NetSuite. Interesting that "none of the above" won the "advanced technology" part of the survey, over AI and all others. Looks like CFOs haven't hopped on board the quest for quantum supremacy just yet...

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my top choices from our vendor coverage, as we reach the peak of the fall event season:

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Stuart comes to the defense of the unexpected, and by that I mean... Facebook? Yep, Stuart's favorite dopamine factory software company, Facebook, is finding backbone on a big issue: encryption (Facebook is right for once as the US, UK and Australia gang up on it over encryption). "Facebook is right. There - I’ve said it. Three words you’re not going to read very often" - at least not in these parts! Then Stuart shifts from privacy to free speech, another suddenly quaint idea, in Is freedom of speech the real loser as Europe's top court takes on social media platform providers?

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

No standout pieces this week, so it's time for... quick hits across the enterprise web:

Armis warns of unpatchable vulnerabilities in critical hardware - "For some devices, the vulnerabilities are so severe that they are considered unpatchable." Oh boy. Josh Greenbaum adds via Twitter:

The New York Times published a navel-gazing piece on where outsourcing doom-and-gloom went wrong: The White-Collar Job Apocalypse That Didn't Happen. Quote to ponder:

Where in retrospect I missed the boat is in thinking that the gigantic gap in labor costs between here and India would push it to India rather than to South Dakota," Mr. Blinder said in a recent interview. "There were other aspects of the costs to moving the activities that we weren't thinking about very much back then when people were worrying about offshoring."

Looking to the future of work, this caught my eye:

The new study found that in the jobs that Mr. Blinder identified as easily offshored, a growing share of workers were now working from home. Mr. Ozimek said he suspected that many more were working in satellite offices or for outside contractors, rather than at a company's main location.

Reader Frank Scavo adds:

Honorable mention

Overworked businessman

Whiffs

So a giant elevator could connect Earth to space, and as per Business Insider, it could be done using current technology. I hope this gets more traction than The Onion's satirical call from George W Bush to construct a giant national air conditioner to combat global warming.

And yes, Broadcast Meteorologists Love To Interrupt Football Games. Let's face it - from time to time, they have a reason. Still: huge bonus for the "FU and your games" graphic. Oh, and a Russian man is suing Apple, claiming his iPhone turned him gay. I really want to make a joke about AirPods here, but I think you'll agree that I'll just get myself into needless trouble.

Finally, in honor of our AI themes this week - I had a bit of a falling out with Alexa recently.

I got a bit roasted on this one, but hey, I set myself up pretty good. All I know is that "You betcha!" is a far cry from the personalized responses I was expecting three years into my "smart home." See you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.