5 min. read

ai.nyc – event recap

Our second annual ai.nyc was held at One World Trade Center on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. This year’s event focused on the perfect recipe for AI problem solving, driving better business outcomes. Our panelists left attendees feeling optimistic and confident about the future of AI, as they shared inspiring messages about how the prospective relationship between humans and AI will elevate businesses, lives and the world.

New York Times best-selling author and mathematician, Cathy O’Neil opened ai.nyc with an ethical examination of artificial intelligence, citing multiple documented cases of biased algorithms, from criminal justice to child abuse to college admissions. Cathy also detailed findings from her book, “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.” For example, using information from her book, Cathy shared with the audience her views on the potential for bad algorithms to institutionalize injustices, such as racism and xenophobia. She also talked about how the coming together of human oversight and the right algorithms, could prevent such unwanted outcomes, helping us to focus on the good that AI can do, if planned and executed in a smart way.

Our co-founder, Srikanth Velamakanni delivered the second keynote of the day. In a fascinating presentation, Srikanth shared his recipe for scaled problem solving, including well-built AI, unique design and smart engineering. He referenced Microsoft’s Tay chatbot experiment, Google’s flu activity algorithm and Google Glass to demonstrate how a strategy missing any one of these ingredients can hamper great problem-solving ideas. He concluded by saying, “augmenting human intelligence is where the action is.”

E-commerce optimization expert, Joe Keating from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, along with Fractal client partner, Dipita Chakraborty led a positive and constructive discussion about mining social data analytics to help e-commerce and CPG brands perform better. Keating, who works in consumer pet products ecommerce, shared examples of real-world insights, cautioning brands against excessive automation, “don’t fall into a trap of thinking you don’t need people.” He also noted that by doubling down on analytics they’ve seen significant growth. It seems the right combination of both, is the key to success.

In her chat, Dipita detailed how to analyze social chatter, advising, “whenever we use an algorithm, we have to figure whether the algorithm is spitting out meaningful data or not.” She also shared that brands are all trying to answer the million-dollar question, “what’s the next big thing consumers want?” through analytics. Dipita helped the audience to understand how to answer these questions for themselves, by sharing insights and her own real-world use cases in which analyzing social chatter correctly helped brands spot innovation, improve brand health and drive conversions.

In the “Problem Solving @ Internet Scale” session, Chris Jasensky, Area IT Director and VP at North America, RB and Rambabu Vallabhajosula, SVP, Hotels Performance and Revenue Management at Priceline, along with Fractal’s own, David Yeo discussed the critical ingredients for implementing AI at scale, including the importance of human capital. “It takes a village to create a successful AI scaling program,” shared Yeo. The panelists detailed how implementing AI at scale is not just a technical challenge and agreed that AI projects need organizational buy-in and alignment to succeed. Company colleagues need to feel they have a vested interest in AI projects, which can be stimulated by sharing KPIs and measurement to inspire people to work for the common goal. Jasensky added that “AI projects must deliver a big, dynamic benefit to keep people engaged.”

Biju Dominic, CEO and Co-Founder of Final Mile Consulting energized the delegates with a passionate plea for designing AI products with the human element in mind. Dominic urged the industry to consider human behavior in the creation of its solutions, striving to build stronger emotional connections between humans and AI. Dominic also suggested the industry address the non-conscious barriers to adoption — primarily trust and emotional connection, closing with a thought-provoking message on the future of artificial intelligence, “we can’t win by making others within the organization lose.”

Panelists Natali Mohanty, who is the Senior VP of Data and Analytics at Pure Insurance, Mike Gualtieri, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, and Fractal’s own, Lana Klein discussed the “Magic of Three Ingredients of Transformation.” This provoking conversation also shared the nexus between engineering, design and human capital, as it relates to scaling AI products, referred to as the “trifecta.” Natali presented a compelling case study, which demonstrated the difficulties in scaling AI products when either quality engineering or design are inadequate. “No matter how hard the problem is, you cannot divorce from the design mindset,” observed Natali, who also defined a design skill as, “requiring a combination of imagination and empathy.”  They all agreed that a practical, long-term mindset is mandatory when launching AI products, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Our co-founder and CEO Pranay Agrawal concluded the day-long conference with fascinating assertions about the role AI plays in everyday lives and how it has helped make our world a better place in the long-run. He also talked about how the world has never been a better place to live in, on any objective measure, and about how technology has played a major role in that.

Pranay also covered the framework for a successful AI-driven future, which included algorithms that allow us to match and exceed human capacity, engineering that will successfully feed tremendous amounts of data into the algorithms, and good design, which will help to solve the right problem. He concluded by saying that in order to solve a problem, thoroughly, we also need to put users at the center of our decisions.

At the very end, Pranay left the audience with this, “Let’s all be happy, and appreciate the fact that we are living in the best times ever, and that if history has taught us anything, it’s that as technology gets better, which it always does, so will our lives, and the world.”