Analytics & Optimization Video: Sebastian Thrun Explains the AI Revolution

AI revolution - Sebastian Thrun
May082018

The AI Revolution – Are You Ready?

With most of the world’s innovation created in just the last 150 years, human progress has occurred in what is essentially a historical blink of an eye.

The steam engine created a force multiplier of human strength, transforming agriculture and manufacturing and kicking off the industrial revolution. Computers and the internet forever changed our capacity to build and access knowledge, producing everything from smartphones and wikipedia to FaceTime and Facebook. Now we are looking at the next historical change, where the ability for software to think and learn, like a human is upon us.

Sebastian Thrun, the lauded computer scientist, innovator and entrepreneur best known for his work on Google’s self driving car team, was our guest keynote speaker on day two of FICO World 2018.  More rockstar than computer geek, clad in a leather jacket, he outlined his vision of artificial intelligence and gave us four examples to illustrate the immense changes that are coming.

“75 percent of the American working population works in offices. We are now defined through our mental strength. Its not our physical agility anymore, it is our brain,” said Thrun. “Most of us do repetitive work, even if you are a doctor, lawyer or financial analyst. Now let me talk about AI,  because AI is about to change all of this…..AI is a way to program computers. Prior to AI we had very smart programmers and very dumb computers. And to instruct a computer to do the right thing, software engineers, would sit down and compose this incredible complicated kitchen recipe of what to do and when……so now AI is trained on examples of what we do and how we think, and can then infer its own rules. It is a huge game changer for all of computer science.”

AI Revolution: What Is Unique to Human Beings?

Chess used to be the pinnacle of human intelligence, until Deep Blue played against grandmaster Gary Kasparov and won in 1997. This was the moment when an AI system equipped with relatively shallow intelligence but massive computing power was able to out calculate Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue was able to play 1,000,000 moves ahead while Kasparov was probably working at about 1,000,000 moves ahead.

Then in 2016 a deep learning program beat the reigning Go champion in the world. This AI program played itself many thousands of time. It found all the rules by playing itself. It played so many times, so many more games than any of us could ever play it eventually got better than any human being.

There is something systematic going on here. We are taking people who are extremely highly trained and then the AI system is able to beat them at their own profession.

AI Revolution: Is Selling to People a Predictive Process?

Standford University looked at repetitive work in the domain of sales, specifically online, inbound sales. The study looked at how consumers would land on the websites of multiple fortune 500 companies, inquire about the product and the sales agent’s job is to convince them to purchase. It turns out if you look at sales agents, about 1 in 4 are really good and the others are fair to bad. The team monitored the sales agents for one month to discover what lead to a sale or non-sale. By examining the successful transactions, the team could program an AI to deliver a ‘next best action’ recommendation. Over time with many data points the system continued to improve, transforming itself into a ‘salesperson’s best adviser’ and turn every salesperson into a superstar performer.

Over about a six months period, we were able to triple the sales conversion of the team, which is a very significant outcome for this type of technology.

AI Revolution: Will Dermatologists Be Trusted with Initial Skin Cancer Diagnosis in the Future?

We asked the question, can we learn from these highly skilled people? Dermatology is a highly repetitive job when examining for skin cancers. Our research team compiled 129,000 images of about 2,000 different skin conditions. From lesions and rashes to melanomas and carcinomas. After the AI was trained on all of these images as to what was cancerous or not, the system developed its own set of rules of what was predictive or not when it came to the size, color, look of the skin spot. The team then gave the same image to 21 dermatologists. The AI was by far the most accurate with only a handful of real dermatologists getting close in terms of accuracy, but what was quite disturbing was the vast distribution of diagnoses for the skin cancers. Some doctors were asking patients to have every spot removed while others almost none.

AI Revolution: Will Deep Learning Help Cars to Drive Themselves?

We can code the driving angle necessary for the steering wheel of a car to follow the road, but AI can actually learn to do this for itself. We recently had a team of students test AI technology reading camera images, who then used it along with radar to build a self-driving car. The team recently tested the technology with the car driving a surface street from Mountain View to San Francisco successfully.

This is not about replacement, it is about empowerment 

“The way I see it this is not about replacement it is about empowerment. Just as much as the steam engine has empowered our muscles, the car, the airplane. We can now run faster than we could ever run before. Just as much as the telephone, and television and the smartphone has empowered our voice, we can now talk thousands of miles apart, said Thrun. “With AI, we will now be able to empower our brain and become experts in seconds in anything we do…..I see this as a positive. People have so much value and creative power, they can now be liberated from repetitive and boring work.”

See and hear more in this video and presentation slides below:

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