As we live in a moment when just about everyone is analogizing the fast-emerging tools of artificial intelligence to one science fiction movie or another, I’ll offer up my own – that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the choice between the life-changing “red pill” or the stay-in-the-ordinary “blue pill.”
“The Matrix is everywhere,” says Morpheus to Neo. “It is all around us, even now in this very room.”
To be sure, I’m skeptical of sci-fi analogies, particularly the apocalyptic ones taken too literally. But both AI’s reality and phantasm are certainly all around us. And so many smart people, including friends whom I deeply respect, are agonizing over the roll-out of ChatGPT, Bard, DALL-E, and countless other innovations as if they are Neo in that fateful scene. For some, AI promises a utopia; for others, its prospects are all dystopia.
But as friends know, I am a “red pill” kind of guy, and I’m on that journey that Morpheus promised to see just “how deep the rabbit hole goes”.
Last month, I headed to the annual TED Conference in Vancouver. On my first day there, before the initial talks kicked off, I wrote this data.world blog post about the danger in the maypole dance of would-be prophets then pivoting around a call for an AI moratorium.
A lot has happened since. In May, top AI CEOs met at the White House with President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris, prompting among other things an announcement of $140 million in federal spending on AI research centers. The European Commission, meanwhile, toughened emerging plans for the world’s first comprehensive AI regulation to include disclosure of copyrighted material used in the underlying data models, so-called Large Language Models or LLMs. And just a week ago, in his first testimony before Congress, OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman implored lawmakers to regulate AI.
I spoke with Strangeworks founder and CEO whurley on the latest episode of the Austin Next podcast, which just dropped today, on Generative AI allowing us to see the macro world as clearly as we see the micro; if we do so we can avoid such fates as that of the Silicon Valley Bank, which missed something so obvious because they didn’t see the forest for the trees. And we spoke of many other dimensions of AI’s torrent of technologies in this ongoing exploration of Austin’s transformation into the next “innovation powerhouse”, as hosts Michael and Jason Scharf put it.
Specifically, whurley and I explored the reality that:
AI is the convergence of the internet, data cloud, mobile connectivity, blockchain, mRNA vaccines, and it in fact represents what I’ve called history’s “Fourth Surge” of data.
All technology grows in layers – as Steve Jobs put it years ago – one on top of the other. That some advocate delaying or suppressing this newest layer atop our evolution as humanity is irresponsible and will only entrench old technology. And technologists.
The societal reinvention and adaptation required by AI will be profound, even traumatic for some, but will go beyond past technological transformations to benefit humanity in countless ways.
AI will be the biggest startup creator in history and by extension the most profound creator of new jobs ever.
We can and will live in a world of AI-empowered education and tutors that means children are no longer bounded by the financial means of their parents but by their own creativity, ability, and curiosity.
Teachers will have vastly more time for one-on-one interaction with students as AI liberates them from the tedium of grading and planning that now takes as much as half their day.
Austin’s technology transformation will only accelerate, as what was previously an application-focused technology sector will integrate AI into manufacturing, product development, entertainment, and so many other segments of the economy.
… and more.
At the TED Conference, education philanthropist founder Sal Khan validated my view that AI will save education, and scientist Yejin Choi argued the case for imbedding AI with the knowledge graph technology – the foundational architecture of my company data.world. And just between these two forums, the data.world team has been moving at AI speed, where years become weeks, weeks become days, and days become minutes.
Since TED, we unveiled ways we’re using AI to automate data discovery, documentation, query, and even ideation within our data catalog at the interface of our tools with those of the Snowflake Data Cloud, dbt, and many others. Earlier this month, we rolled out the integration of AI into our data discovery tools with Archie Bots – named for the Greek polymath of antiquity as well as the infamous owl by Merlin’s side in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone – to make the facts and information contained in data infinitely more accessible by non-expert users in companies while also saving the experts a lot of time. Last week, our team went beyond to hold a webinar on BB Bots and Hoots, yet another innovation to accelerate and elevate data’s utility even more, an innovation I’ve compared to the advent of Doppler radar in the 1980s, which revolutionized our ability to understand the weather and predict storms – in this case radar for corporate decision-makers.
We live in incredibly exciting times and we are racing ahead here at data.world to benefit our industry, community, and customers. Earlier this week, Juan Sequeda, the head of our AI Lab, presented alongside Vip Parmar, Global Head of Data Management at WPP, at the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit in London. It was a packed room and the buzz was apparent - data practitioners realize that the ground is shifting beneath them. And the following day they hosted a webinar on the same subject of the massive productivity lift garnered from Generative AI + data catalogs. If you missed it, don't worry - it's recorded for playback.
As Morpheus put it, "Remember...all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more."
I’m linking to my original data.world blog post before TED as well, as so much has happened since then. This was originally shared on April 17th, at the height of the AI moratorium fears.