Anthea Stratigos – February 7, 2017
Forget March madness. It’s all about AI and machine learning. Remember dot.com, anyone? How about portal? Or Web 2.0? How about convergence? Coming down from Outsell’s DataMoney Conference, it’s clear the world is all about all data all the time, and the buzzwords de jour are machine learning and AI. Want to add a few points to your valuation? Call yourself a machine learning company. Say you are the AI for … fill in the blank. Venture capitalists at the event reinforced that SaaS is so yesterday. If you really want points, call yourself a machine learning platform that delivers AI solutions. Bonus points for combining the two. The tech cycles are real, and we’ve seen them come and go, but with each rev, the money men’s sparks start to fly. Before you know it, everyone is piling on to the fire. It reminds me of the time I had a new CEO, 20 years ago, and he wore suspenders. Before you knew it, every aspiring male in the company was wearing them. It’s just like that, only with what you call your company.
Last week was a big week at Outsell’s DataMoney Conference and with it came major announcements and AI in the news! Elsevier bought Plum Analytics. IBM Watson partnered with H&R Block to make our tax preparation more real. Of course, the PR is politic, and saying it’s all about augmenting humans. Betcha in about one to three years (my estimate), five out of 10 tax preparers at that firm disappear. You can augment humans, but when you do that, you don’t need them all. Their PR team is so excited about the deal that they’ve even, gosh, decided to come back to the Super Bowl to advertise. I am not sure how these two phenoms go hand in hand, but John Hamm is happy, so I’ll be, too. I get and believe that machines and men (or women) can co-exist and love the premise of The Inevitable. It’s hopeful. Even Inderpal Bhandari spoke this week at our event, sharing his mission to turn IBM into a Cognitive Enterprise and in doing so use IBM as a showcase. He also spoke of augmenting human capabilities. I get that. I believe that, but there is no doubt that there is going to be job displacement because of the amazing machines that are now spewing AI solutions in real time and getting smarter all the while.
Look at the news this week about an AI solution beating the world’s best players at Texas Hold‘em. Unlike chess, this type of poker is way more nuanced around human emotion, reading the situation, bluffing, not being able to see half of what’s going on. Whereas chess, it’s all taking place on the board. The machines “trounced” the poor guys, says The Guardian. Forget Jeopardy or chess. We’ve now fallen to the machines in the last bastion of intellectual sport — poker.
This is the week where AI finally went mainstream and gained steam. If poker and the tax man — the two things we depend on in life to not go anywhere — have gone to the machines, then it’s February madness for sure. As for March Madness? Wonder when the machines are going to take over that sport? Otherwise, sooner or later, we’ll all be out there playing ball. There won’t be much else for us to do.