Thursday, July 29, 2021

Speed and a Doctrine for the Future

Throughout my career in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “First, develop a business strategy and then find the technology to support it.” My experience over the years, however, has led me to believe this maxim is misguided.   Let me explain by asking several questions.

What came first digital commerce or the Internet?  Mobile payments or wireless networks?  Commercial airline travel or the airplane, knights in shiny armour being used as shock troops, or stirrups?  Trivia answer: Stirrups!  Technology has a long history of appearing first, and then strategies are formed later.

What we are learning is if our outdated business strategies are dictating the speed of our technology adoptions, then we are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and we must align the tempo of our business strategy evolution with the pace of technology innovations and our customer adoptions of those technologies.  We need to invest in future oriented thinking and the exploration of how new technologies and trends will alter the manner in which we interact with customers and operate our businesses.
"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Must We be Good to Have a Good Future?

The renowned Futurist Gerd Leonhard, in this short and impactful video, says in order to create a good future - we must be good.  He suggests four focus areas for the future: people, prosperity, purpose and planet.  If you agree with Gerd, then the first question is "What is good?  Secondly, "How do we become good?"  And, thirdly, "How do we use that good to create the future we all want?"

A satisfying definition of "good" for me is something that promotes happiness, community well-being, is loving, pleasing, admirable, kind, desirable and virtuous.  Once we figure out how to become these things ourselves, we must embed them in our technology in the form of AI, to help us shape a "good" future.

As more of our daily activities and interactions involve artificial intelligence, we will want our interfaces and communications with AI (digital assistants, chatbots and robots) to feel and be "good."  We will want AI to make accurate, consistent and "good" decisions, and then to execute "good" actions.  Training AI to be good and act good is a real challenge.  These kinds of philosophical, moral and inspired traits and actions are not AI's strong suite.  Now that I am writing this I realize they aren't particularly the strong suite of humans either.

I can imagine a scenario where an algorithm processes data that suggests three equally logical actions.  The final choice, however, is determined by which option is most heavily weighted to the "good."  Which one of us is going to determine the "good" weight?

The obvious problem with this scenario is us humans can't agree on what is good, or to what degree it is good.  Feeding and sheltering homeless families and giving them medical assistance is considered good by some, and bad by others.  Saving millions of lives by vaccinating people is considered good by some and bad by others.

Our artificial intelligence powered digital assistants, chatbot and robots are all awaiting their instructions about how they can help create a "good" future.  What should I tell them?  

Watch the latest on Oracle's digital assistants, chatbots and artificial intelligence here in my interview with Oracle expert Suhas Uliyar.

************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Will You Trust a Robot?

Jeff Bezos and team launched 66.5 miles into suborbital space on a rocket ship with no pilot this week.  The rocket ship operated autonomously using sensors and artificial intelligence.  That takes trust. They had to believe in the science and that the AI system would get them safely there and back.  They had to have trust in the scientists, programmers, engineers, physicists and chemists.  They had to have trust in the math and physics.  They had to trust the coding and formulas used in the algorithms.  They had to trust in the data coming from the sensors.  Although there were likely many failures along the way, they trusted the process - the scientific method.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Latest Developments in Artificial Intelligence and Digital Assistants at Oracle

My brilliant friend Suhas Uliyar is Oracle's VP of Digital Assistants, AI & Integration.  We connected on Zoom last week where he shared the latest developments in AI, and the progress his team is making in creating digital assistants that understand sentiment, swear words and soon have reasoning powers.  




************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Speed and Transformational Leadership


It took Magellan’s crew three years sailing ships to circumnavigate the earth.  Today, at hypersonic speeds of 7,680 MPH, it takes just over three hours to circumnavigate the earth.  Data on the Internet, however, travels at 670 million mph, which means it only takes milliseconds to circumnavigate the earth.  In this age of digital businesses and digital interactions, companies must digitally transform to work effectively in a world where global business and information moves at these mind-blowing speeds.

It's not just IT systems that are impacted by the volume and speed of information.  The creators of business processes that were designed and developed in an analog area, simply never envisioned a business environment that would require these operational tempos.  Analog business processes were designed to have humans involved.  These dependencies were designed to slow down the process to ensure accuracy, compliance and accountability.  Today, however, operating at the slow speeds of an analog, human dependent business process, will doom your company.  Analog business processes must be quickly automated via robotic process automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning to effectively interact with impatient digital customers and B2B partners.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The Future of Managers

Managers must explain a lot of things.  Early in my career I managed a team of six IT experts responsible for EDI and other forms of business-to-business data exchanges with suppliers.  Our data, from planning and manufacturing systems, was shared with our suppliers' to support the just-in-time manufacturing of electronics.  Our senior leadership would often ask us to defend our data, yet we often struggled to explain where it originated from or how the numbers were generated.  The data we were using came from a figurative "black box."  We received it without explanation.  That of course was an untenable position for a manager.

In the near future managers will increasingly depend on artificial intelligence for assistance, and hopefully it will be explainable AI to avoid the challenges I faced.  Explainable AI (XAI) is artificial intelligence in which the results, and the logic and data used, can be understood by humans.  Understanding how the system works is critical to establishing trust.  

As AI becomes integrated into more and more businesses and IT systems, the role it plays will become ever more critical.  Any questions about why an AI system made a particular decision or took an action must be able to be quickly deciphered, explained and adjusted if necessary.  Having trust in the AI system is a critical first step for managers to open up and use it for an expanding list of tasks.

AI systems, implemented correctly can be a manager's right hand.  Common benefits of AI are:
  • Reduced human errors
  • Is available 24x7x365
  • Can complete mundane, repetitive and routine administrative work without distraction
  • Can scale
  • Can make faster decisions, and take faster actions based upon established business processes 
  • Can find solutions and innovations faster by analyzing patterns within oceans of data
In a report by HBR, it was found that 54% of a manager's time is usually spent on administrative tasks - tasks well suited for AI assistance.  If AI can take over these tasks it could free up managers to spend more time on the things humans are best at including applying their knowledge of organizational history and culture, empathy, ethical reflection, judgement, creativity, experiments, innovation, strategy, discretion, experience and improvisation. 

In the HBR report there are five pieces of advice for managers of the future:
  1. Leave administration to AI
  2. Focus on judgement work
  3. Treat intelligent machines/agents as colleagues
  4. Work like a designer
  5. Develop your social skills and networks
I can imagine a scenario in the near future where there will be an organizational chart of robots, robot workers, managers and robot executives.  Each using XAI to explain how they are managing the robots, tasks and operations under their responsibility.  I guess that means we humans will need to figure that out first.

Read more on AI here:
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.