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The Social Implication of AI with Tom Siebel

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

I was privileged to join one of technology’s most preeminent leaders, Tom Siebel, in an insightful conversation on AI.

For more than four decades, Tom Siebel has been one of Silicon Valley’s most successful gurus and distinguished entrepreneurs. The former executive of Oracle went on to be founder and CEO of two distinguished brands, C3 and Siebel Systems. On November 1, 2018, at the SF Commonwealth Club event, “The Social Implications of AI”, Siebel discussed the societal and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence by exploring the opportunities it presents, as well as the downside.

Siebel explained the difference between General AI and Practical AI. The term General AI refers to machines that are indistinguishable in intelligence from humans, whereas Practical AI is designed to make predictions or accomplish specific problems such as when a device may fail in the market, when someone might get infected with a disease, or what your next purchase on Amazon will be. Basically, Practical AI aims to solve problems that were previously unsolvable.

According to Siebel, the largest application of AI will be in precision medicine, which may result in people living longer and healthier lives. AI will help prevent the occurrence of diseases by predicting who may get cancer or diabetes years before it happens. AI does not intend to replace physicians but to assist them in helping more people. In addition, AI may help create a safer and cleaner environment in several ways, such as decreasing waste as product providers anticipate our needs and provide products accordingly.

While the benefits of AI are substantial, Siebel also acknowledged that the potential cost will be significant as well. The downside of AI is that predictions show it will consume 400 million jobs in ten years, potentially leading to high levels of unemployment. Siebel emphasized that this could, and should, be addressed through our education system. And, in regards to management and regulation of data, he said the way to head forward is to have balanced and collaborative discussions between the public and private sector.

This forum really provoked my curiosity, and I left deciding that now is the time to become more educated and prepare for this inevitable change. I immediately enrolled in a related online course at Harvard Business School in an effort to exempt myself from the list of potentially unemployable, as predicted.

By Fasanmi Ayotunde

Master in Science (Specializing in Finance Management)