Weekly Brief: Widening Gap between AI Early Adopters, Laggards

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New McKinsey Report Sees Widening Gap between AI Early Adopters, Laggards

Now that AI is starting to deliver real value to companies, the time to strike is now so that your business is not left behind. This is the gist of a new report from McKinsey Global Institute, on how AI is delivering real value to companies.

Examples include Amazon using AI-power robots to help fulfill orders in its warehouses, work based on the acquisition of robot-maker Kiva. Another example cited is the vast effort going on to deliver self-driving cars, although that right now is primarily a highly-paid employment opportunity, and a research dive into the enabling technologies. As the series on self-driving cars by AI Trends Insider Dr. Lance Eliot has been documenting, self-driving cars have a long way to go.

Fueling the AI pace today is the volume of data being produced from web browsers to turbine sensors to medical data – in every field. However, the primary beneficiaries of the drive to AI so far today are the “digital-native” companies such as Amazon, Google and Baidu. They are making the most investments and are cash-rich.

AI adoption outside the tech sector is at an early, experimental stage. McKinsey’s survey of more than 3,000 “AI-aware” companies worldwide found that the AI early adopters tend to be closer to the digital frontier, are among the larger firms within sectors, deploy AI across technology groups, use AI in the most core part of the value chain, adopt AI to increase revenue as well as reduce costs, and have the full support of executive leadership.

Companies that have not adopted AI technology at scale or in a core part of their businesses are unsure of the business case for AI or of the returns they can expect on an AI investment.

The adoption pattern is showing a widening gap between early adopters and others. As the firms working on AI adoption acquire more data, the laggards will find it harder to catch up.

Read the McKinsey report on AI Adoption here. 

University of Oxford Study Finds Elections, Political Views Being Swayed by Bots and Trolls

How AI is being incorporated to influence free elections worldwide, is the subject of a new study from the University of Oxford, reported on in the Independent, newspaper of the UK.  Bots and trolls and working together to spread propaganda and manipulate the politics view of Facebook and Twitter users, the study has found.

During last year’s European Union referendum on whether England should exit, bots “played a small but strategic role” in shaping Twitter conversations, according to the report. “The family of hashtags associated with the argument for leaving the EU dominated, while less than one percent of sample accounts generated almost a third of all the messages,” the report stated.

The study alluded to similar dynamics in the 2016 US presidential election, referring to the effort as “computational propaganda” and describing it as “one of the most powerful new tools against democracy.”

The report describes computational propaganda as a “phenomenon that encompasses recent digital misinformation and manipulation efforts,” which “involved learning from and mimicking real people so as to manipulate public opinion across a diverse range of platforms and device networks.”

The study analyzed tens of millions of social media posts across seven different platforms during elections and national security incidents in nine countries. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially, famously, denied that false stories spread through his social network had any effect on the US presidential election, he has since taken the threat much more seriously.

The University of Oxford study suggested that social media sites need to redesign themselves in order to regain trust.

The US congressional midterm elections in 2018 will be a test to see if publishers and pipelines have made progress in countering the fake news attacks, or if the attackers will continue to have the upper hand in manipulating public opinion.

Read the source article in The Independent.

Udacity Adds Another Nanodegree to its Portfolio of Hot Topics to Teach

College students or anyone else looking to get in on the AI gold rush, are finding a friend and ally in Udacity, the opportunistic education company offering online courses on hot topics. Udacity has designed a range of condensed courses to get students up to students up to speed on trending tech topics, and to help students build a more attractive profile for potential employers.

Udacity calls the earned outcomes “nanodegrees” – on subjects including deep learning, robotics and virtual reality. The latest addition, as reported by TechCrunch, is React, which is a JavaScript library for front-end development. Proving popular in recent months, React now counts developers in Airbnb, Netflix and Facebook among its users.

Udacity, which partners to deliver its courses, worked with React Training to develop the React nanodegree program. The single-term course spans four months and is divided into three segments, each with its own project. Students can post their projects on their Github accounts where prospective employers can see them. This Nanodegree is priced at $499.

Udacity CEO Vish Makhijani has been talking to state and local politicians about building out a physical presence, as in classroom buildings with teachers – like most colleges. Udacity is running an early physical classroom program in Reno, Nevada.

Udacity is offering a cross between vocational and academic training. Skeptics may say the nanodegrees don’t qualify the recipients for much, but maybe that’s not the point. I get concerned that many enrolled college students are accumulating debt and living in a bubble divorced from job market realities. Participating in the Udacity program should improve job market qualifications for college students, as well as post-college students. Udacity is pushing the higher education envelope.

Being extremely topical and concentrating on AI topics such as data science and machine learning, is a smart strategy. Which institution has a monopoly on what is the most effective education approach? Ask college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates what they think.

Read about Udacity’s React Nanodegree in TechCrunch.

John Desmond, AI Trends Editor