Are we starting to see a tipping point or have we already missed it (in Europe) ?

This is the first of what will be regular write ups in our CALYPS blog on the subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is not intended to be about AI technology only, it is very much about how we might look at what is AI, understanding what it may mean for our world and the widespread impacts it will have. Also, to become comfortable with it and accepting of its existence. Today there are a lot of clever people out there thinking about this in any meaningful depth and yet, they may well represent well under 1% of the earth’s population, maybe less than 0.1%. Think about that. Let me start by saying that we cannot really take our time and wait to dig into this subject matter called AI – because it is already imposing itself upon us. If you think you have a choice in all this, inform yourself and think again …
That was a bit brash maybe but I feel I have to be. We are talking about something really big here.  This is about a big game, a really big game. It will touch deeply (already does) on the “future of us”, our businesses, our daily lives, our competitive advantages etc. And at a speed and pervasiveness with which we have probably never seen a technology impact us before.  I am of two minds as I write this.  I admit that I feel a bit of discomfort because this sounds threatening. But I also feel – and more so – buoyancy because, while we cannot stop this train, we have the opportunity to generate many benefits from this evolution, if we choose to get on board.
I cannot hide my disappointment as I observe how we, in Europe, are fast asleep – it would seem. Sorry folks, relatively speaking we are. We have no Googles, Amazons, TenCents, Alibabas or similar. Even next tier players. For those of you who are wide awake to this now (or knew this anyway) the battleground today is  “AI US vs. AI China”. And China is winning. China is winning because China is scrappy, brash and hungry – they WANT to win. And they will win much more than we ever bargained for. Unless …
Yes, this is a competition – and that is ok. This should not be about geopolitics but it is to large degree. Still, enough geopolitics for now (but do not forget its impacting role please). For those of you fellow Europeans who feel piqued and criticized by what I write, you may take solace in the fact that I am “criticizing” myself too. We are in this together. That said, I would rather replace critique with “a call for action”. What is unfolding before our eyes is that AI is not a fad, a passing flash in the pan, something that will fizzle. It is part of an evolution and, as such, it is here to stay. Technology and the existence of huge amounts of data that get produced every day, in every sphere of our lives, are combining to solidify this evolution.

And now a first question about AI

Do we as a human race want to leave this evolution and what it leads to in the hands of a few who then have total control over almost everything we do, or should we “democratize” this a bit? Maybe a whole lot ?
The old and well known saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies here like never before. Do we really want to let this unfold? I would suggest that we get moving much faster, step up a gear and create and embrace efforts to have a seat at the global AI table. Another saying applies: “you have to be in it if you want to win it”. That said, we in Europe are “in it” but simply not enough, not by a long shot. And we are missing opportunities as a result.
On the note of “opportunities”, let us take break from what so far may sound like fear mongering… To be sure there are many opportunities and they are not just for the few who (are trying to) dominate today. We can get quite a few of them and then generate more from them. But we need to embrace AI and allow for proper structures, agile and willing players (often small) and ideas that potential customers actively encourage and support, to thrive. With data at the center of AI, because it defines the algorithms that evolve, GDPR is indeed something that is long overdue, very good, even courageous, but we need to be sure we let it work in sensible tandem with AI tech progress.
So much for now.  In the next contribution to this blog, I or one of my colleagues at CALYPS, will  dig deeper into specific opportunities and benefits that AI can bring, to all sorts of entities. And what we need to collectively do to enable that. After all, we do want that seat at the table, do we not ?

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