In an automated world, the future is uncertain – but these AI experts are hopeful

On April 25th, 2017, we partnered with our longtime supporters IBM for “Cognitive Computing and the Future of Work.” Held at IBM’s Foster City facility, the event brought together a packed room full of curious entrepreneurs, engineers, builders, and thinkers, who enjoyed a presentation from IBM’s GM of Collaboration Solutions Inhi Suh on her company’s forward-thinking strides in cognitive computing and open enterprise software. The evening closed with an expert panel’s thoughts on the future of smart computers, and how they’ll affect our lives–and our livelihood. The panel included Suh, YY Lee, CEO of First Rain; Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Communications, Ravi N. Raj, CEO of Ruperbot, Khosla Ventures CTO Sven Strohband; IBM’s VP of Watson Work Rishi Vaish held the moderator’s seat.

Right now, AI’s biggest issue is not its usability – the panelists agreed that AI is both a reality and here to stay – but in its overmarketing. Strohband remarked, “Every third pitch you hear has AI in it, and every third slide you see has a picture of a brain on it.” There is AI that actually works to standard–and there is genuine progress in the field happening all the time. “I’m constantly amazed how fast it goes,” Strohband said. “The only way to cut through clutter is to have education on how AI actually works. I wish there was more understanding what these applications can actually do.”

First Rain CEO YY Lee added, “A lot of progress needs to be made–we need to get to the point where computers are creepy-helpful,” or ready with the right information the first time, every time. The future of AI lies in its ability to assist its users, making their lives easier a piece at a time. Lee talked about the uses of technology in job creation–“Generally, technology that creates more productivity creates an overall wealth.”

A question from the audience on the future of jobs turned the conversation from cognitive computing to the work it’s replacing. “The Industrial Revolution went fast,” Strohband said. “Tech is happening much faster.” Automation and AI solutions aren’t just disrupting industrial and/or repetitive jobs like sorting or filing–jobs generally thought of as “white collar” are also edging out employees as their computer counterparts learn to think.

Eric Yuan added, “In the long term, the job marketplace will adapt, but since technology moves so quickly the short-term is going to be difficult.”

“It’s a challenge that no one constituency can solve by themselves,” Suh remarked. As with all things, collaboration, connection, and diversification are the only ways forward toward building a better future–smart computers and all.


For more comments and commentary from the evening, view the event hashtag: #SVFCogCom 

Thank you to our partners at IBM for helping us host this event!


Author: Micaela Youmans
Head of Ops. and Communication

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