Partnership on Artifical Intelligence to Benefit People and Society

Of all the modern demands on Artificial Intelligence, “open the pod bay doors” is arguably the most infamous. Years after Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, you can ask your own pocket AI. Unlike Siri, HAL 9000, the fictional AI who kept the pod bay doors closed, is a revealing reflection of humanity’s anxieties regarding technology created in one’s own image.  

Perhaps the same shared, underlying unease that caused HAL’s misbehavior to still resonate to this day is partly behind Google, DeepMind, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM banding together to police the development and implementation of AI.  Notably absent are OpenAI (Elon Musk’s research project) and Apple. The group’s chosen name, “Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society,” is fairly self-explanatory, if not clunky and slightly sinister. As stated on the Partnership’s website, the group was formed to leverage the “great promise” of AI “for raising the quality of people’s lives” and addressing “important global challenges such as climate change, food, inequality, health, and education.” However, many of the Partnership’s stated goals seem geared towards shaping the future public attitude towards AI via knowledge and reassurance.

  • Advance public understanding of artificial intelligence.
  • Create standards for future research.
  • Support best practices.
  • Create open discussion.

Further, some of the Partnership’s eight tenets listed on its website almost directly address public concerns regarding AI and its logical conclusion, robot uprising. In general, the tenets involve the following principles:

  1. As many people as possible should be benefited and empowered by AI.
  2. The public should be involved in the development of AI.
  3. Development will be held accountable to “a broad rage of stakeholders.”
  4. Research and development should be conducted with transparency, and systems’ reasoning should be equally transparent, but also explainable.
  5. Development will seek public feedback and address public questions.

The Partnership’s formation, as well as its focus on transparency, public involvement, and ethics, is notably near to the White House’s series of workshops and groups on AI’s risks and benefits. The government’s workshops addressed complex policy, safety and security questions, and also revealed fears that jobs will be lost to AI, and behavior will be unpredictable and uncontrolled.

One must wonder whether the Partnership is less an exercise in selflessness than a strategic maneuvering to control the AI conversation.  Arguably, presenting solutions via the Partnership would potentially discourage government regulation, and in so doing avoid regulatory speed bumps to company growth.

Are you a Freelancer, an Entrepreneur or a Salesperson?

Many people enter the world of entrepreneurship and freelancing work because:

  • Opportunities are available and our culture encourages it,
  • They want to be their own boss,
  • They have the skills that the work requires, or
  • They’ve heard success stories that make them believe it’s possible.

However, many people who go into business for themselves have no real business management experience or other relevant training. They also don’t realize until they’ve begun their business journey that having some type of sales skills are crucial to the work.

The sales process consists of several key steps.

  1. Having or gaining business knowledge,
  2. Prospecting,
  3. Approaching the potential client,
  4. The needs assessment,
  5. The presentation,
  6. The close, and
  7. The follow-up

Every sale we make, whether we intend to do it or not, follows this process. Sometimes it just happens naturally. Sometimes, (especially online), customers walk themselves through their own sales processes.

Most experts believe that customers buy for emotional reasons and also because they trust the seller. You will find many marketing gurus, think-tanks and agencies trying to sell you ways to earn potential client trust; many of which are expensive, time-consuming and being done by everyone.

Large brands and companies with good funding resources can afford to invest in substantial marketing campaigns. However, for most freelancers and entrepreneurs, this type of investment is impossible.

Salesperson

How then can you build customer trust and make sales quickly and easily?

Researchers Thomas Travisano and William Brooks stumbled on an interesting fact about the emotional triggers that compel people to buy. They interviewed all types of B2B decision-makers and consumer buyers to figure out what makes them buy some products and services and not others for their book – You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale!

They learned that customers buy most frequently from people and brands they feel understand them.

Many sales professionals learn to approach the sales process by finding out what the client’s needs are, and then, telling them how the features of the product or service they sell can meet those needs. Though this is often an effective approach, the researchers found it was more effective to couple this with a sales process carried out by a person that understands the buyers underlying emotional needs. The seller that best understands those needs is the seller that also shares them now or shared them at one point in his or her career or life. An office manager turned sales rep, therefore has a good chance of making sales to office managers that are decision-makers and purchasers of office equipment and so on.

On a personal level, think how much easier it is to take restaurant recommendations from someone you know enjoys the same foods that you do. Similar people have similar pain points. Understanding and addressing pain points are a huge part of making any sale.

Artificial Intelligence – moving humans forward

Ever since we figured out how to put a computer in every home, someone has been asking the question “will robots or artificial intelligence replace humans in the workforce?” The answer, of course, is yes. They have and will continue to do so as we find areas where a robot can do the work better or where a job is unsafe for a human to do. But the typical robot doing a repetitive job is not necessarily “intelligent”. Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is something entirely different.

The theory that computer systems and applications can someday replace humans has been held in both fear and awe. Applications for artificial intelligence, however, continue to drive forward and at a faster pace than ever. As development companies collect user data and build smarter applications, algorithms using that data can make the applications gain abilities making them appear to learn, grow and adapt to surroundings and circumstances. The data can be applied using these algorithms to serve nearly any industry.

Merriam-webster dictionary defines Artificial Intelligence as, “an area of computer science that deals with giving machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence.”

This means that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not limited to robots or some sort of android type of computer. Pretty much artificial intelligence is a set of code that learns over time. So does this mean AI can really advance to the point where it takes over our daily lives and takes the place of humans in every way? The answer is possibly.

For years we have all worried that we would be replaced by robots and to some extent that has come to pass. So why shouldn’t AI replace us in some fashion in the future?

A few of these jobs might look something like this:

  1. Order Clerks
  2. Data Entry Operators
  3. Library Technicians
  4. Photocopy Operators
  5. Tax Preparations
  6. Telemarketers

PC Magazine published a list of 20 Jobs Likely to Be Replaced by Robots.

But what if instead of removing the need for human knowledge worker, AIs actually enhanced the workplace and made more jobs for humans in the long run. Machines running programs have taken much of the human error out of documenting many types of information and doing precise tasks.

But the need for a human to somehow enter this information into the program still exists. So even though artificial intelligence is capable of “learning” quickly. How do you replace a life time of intuition that a human accumulates in a short amount of time?

Some areas where a life this life experience will still be valuable are:

  1. Recreational Therapists
  2. Occupational Therapists
  3. Healthcare social workers
  4. Physicians and surgeons – even though robots are being used extensively in this field the human touch may still be needed
  5. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
  6. Elementary School Teachers – this may be a grey area also, some technology will move into these jobs but there is still some need for humans.

There is no stopping the progress of this technology and who knows what will happen in the future. We just need to restructure and educate our workforce to compensate so humans and Artificial Intelligence can be put in areas where each are best suited for the job at hand.

Recently, TechRepublic concisely noted some of the most exciting trends in the field even beyond robotic factory workers and driverless cars. Application of AI into customer service, data processing, and even our children’s toys mean that we will see AI in our personal lives and in our work to a greater extent.

Walk through any big-box retailer and observe everyday items connected to the Internet – our cars, our refrigerators, our televisions – the tech companies at the forefront of AI are gathering data on us and how we live, what we like or dislike at heightened speeds and with greater capacity. Using this data, companies can improve our customer experience at a deeper level when computers adapt to understand emotions by listening to the tone of voice and using facial recognition looking for subtle changes in expression.

At the core of our understanding and use of artificial intelligence remains discovery into the ethical issues surrounding the topic. Is it right to replace workers? How much data is too much? Are there risks to continuing this trend? Some of these questions would have highly personal answers. How we respond as a collective may influence the direction this trend takes in the future.

Here is an interesting video from ColdFusion TV – What is Artificial Intelligence Exactly?

Lessons Learned from a Lifetime Dedicated to Entrepreneurship

If you’re planning to start a business or a startup, it’s valuable to learn about life and the flow of business from people who have navigated their own paths to success. Though it’s true, no matter who you learn from or what college you attend, ultimately, everyone has to make his or her own way to success. However, no one can make it without borrowing a proven effective strategy or two from someone else.

David Turner Morgenthaler died in June of this year after achieving great success with his venture capital firm, Morgenthaler Ventures.

Turner, known as a successful investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist will also go down in history for his instrumental roles in amending ERISA legislation and lowering the US capital gains tax to 28% from 49%.

Small Biz Trends contributor Scott Shane shared some of the valuable business lessons he learned from Morgenthaler over the years.

What Can Entrepreneurs, Startup Founders and Investors Learn from Morgenthaler?

On Startup Founding and Success

  • Startup success is challenging. Most of the factors that contribute to a startup’s success aren’t factors founders can control. In fact, Morgenthaler equated startup success to, “making lightning strike the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day.”
  • Startup investing isn’t a guaranteed money maker. Startup investments only produce returns about 10% of the time. Investors should be prepared to lose money often.

On Investing, Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy

  • Successful investing can come from doing adequate research and knowing everything about a company’s management, their organization, their market and their industry.
  • However, the most important element in the equation is the entrepreneur or management team. The right person/people can change organizational factors and create success. In fact, he felt most startups and entrepreneurial endeavors failed because the business owners and founders, (the people), made mistakes.
  • Successful business heads gather in places where realistic success is plentiful. They leave dead places where new business and investment can’t flourish. This is why you see so many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

On Intelligence

  • Intelligence is not the same thing as getting a lucky break and profiting from it.
  • It’s not being an intellectual snob and discounting the input of everyone around you with a good idea; and
  • Good ideas must also be provable. They must be possible. They must conform to the standards of natural laws like gravity etc.

Manager-Employee Relationships: 6 Ways to Take Growth to the Next Level

As negative experiences with supervisors constitute the number one reasons employees leave companies, it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of maintaining positive relations between managers and employees. Particularly important in small, Startup businesses where managers and employees tend to work extremely closely, building and maintaining strong relationships forms an important part of the company’s foundation.

Here are six simple steps how managers can build mutual trust and respect with their employees, ensuring long-term dedication and retention.

  1. Listen: Taking employees seriously shows respect and encourages communication. Opening the doors for communication dramatically improves the manager-employee relationship as employees know their voices are heard, their opinions matter, and they have a say in their jobs.
  2. Cut the Crap: Say what is true and needs to be said. Flattery, rumors, avoiding real issues, and other kinds of unnecessary word-play do not fool anyone.
  3. Appreciate: Take the time to thank employees for a job well done. Not only does this demonstrate attention and involvement, it inspires them to keep up good work, knowing that it does not go unnoticed.
  4. Work Together: Projects that result in more interaction also result in mentoring and growth on both sides. The obvious result is employee growth, but other benefits include building mutual respect and rapport, sharing the work-load.
  5. Feedback: Positive or negative, employees sometimes need an outside voice to give feedback before they can fully understand their performance. Managerial input offers them the chance to understand their work from a new and necessary perspective.
  6. Growth: Managers who provide purposeful opportunities for growth for their employees are investing in both the employee and the company — a fact that is not lost on the employees.

Following the basic strategies of listening, honesty, being appreciative, purposeful mentoring, consistent feedback, and strategic growth opportunities sets up a positive atmosphere of communication and respect by demonstrating interest in the employees’ productivity and their overall work experience. With time and commitment, building these traits can change the atmosphere of a workplace, securing dedicated employees and building strong and effective teams.

Startups Case Study: Why SpoonRocket Shut Down

SpoonRocket

Although the on-demand industry is highly popular, not all businesses remain successful. Recently the food-delivery service SpoonRocket announced it was shutting down. Prior to closing, the business accomplished meal sales at a profit, but the cost of operations exceeded the funding they were able to raise. In addition, their business model of cheap, quickly delivered food did not draw in the customer base required to sustain it – many customers reported dissatisfaction with the quality of the meals, preferring to spend more money for tastier alternatives. The management attempted to organize an acquisition instead of terminating the business, but the deal ultimately failed.

Sprig, a strong competitor of SpoonRocket, has attracted many of the customers and ex-employees of the closing business. The SpoonRocket management team actively recommended Sprig as part of their closing announcement, offering discount coupons for SpoonRocket customers who chose to transition. Despite Sprig’s service being slower and the cost higher, many customers find its quality superior and its sustainable, organic sourcing appealing.

Several additional alternatives exist for ex-employees or customers of SpoonRocket. Caviar, a service that partners with restaurants in over a dozen major cities, allows customers to order from their favorite locations. For people who prefer to cook, DoorDash permits customers to order groceries from local suppliers for delivery in less than 45 minutes. Another option, Postmates, is headquartered in San Francisco, and aims to grant customers access to goods from any local store or restaurant.

Regardless of the reasons why food-delivery startup SpoonRocket shut down, the on-demand industry remains strong and its opportunities promising.

Introducing Acorn WordPress Theme at Theme6

After multiple delays and hesitations, I have finally released Theme6, a site dedicated to carefully crafted and well designed themes and templates. I’m lucky to have partnered with an awesome designer – Saneef Ansari. Our first release is a Typographically tailored theme for WordPress – Acorn.

Acorn is a mobile-first, retina-ready responsive theme focused on typography and content. It is designed to be clean, simple, minimal and to stay out of the way to focus full attention to your blog posts, articles and content.

Our idea is to keep it as simple as possible, without the need for any additional plugins nor custom fields. It would work without any special need to add/edit the contents of the blog posts or articles.

We are thrilled and would be adding more well designed themes in future.

Growing your Startup Audience through Email Marketing

Online marketing is a whole new world for traditional businesses and entrepreneurs looking for an eCommerce goldmine, and email marketing is at once the most powerful force in this world and also the most maligned one.

Think email marketing, and the word “spam” comes to mind. It’s not edible either. The stigma is real enough, but you don’t have to be a spammer to send an email. Besides, can you really afford to ignore a channel that provides an ROI of $40 for every dollar spent?

You may think that you can get hold of everyone on social media, so why bother with emails? Well, here’s news for you – Email traffic is still the second largest source of visitors for shopping sites, after search engines.

Secondly, there are more email accounts than social media accounts. Everyone with a social media account has an email, but not everyone with an email is one active on social media. Also, there’s a world of difference in how you market your company, brand, product and yourself through email and on social media. Email is a 1-on-1 communication system, and that’s always going to be more effective in sales and marketing.

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Why FCC decided to Reveal High Speed Internet Acceleration Initiative Globally

Technological advancements are being introduced at increasingly fast rates around the world. Several companies, especially those operating in the Information Technology industry, have had to make adjustments to their strategies because being there first can identify you as a revolutionary organization that is known for innovation. Whereas getting there a bit late can label you a follower, which is a label that is extremely hard to shrug off.

As technology advances, examples being cloud technology, an increase in viewers of online television and online gaming follows, and an apparent need was identified by the FCC for significant enhancements in the infrastructure of internet providers to support such advancements.

How Does the Initiative Affect You

Although the advantages are easy to identify, the cons of the operation are minimal but they do affect most consumers. Internet providers are now going to have to make further enhancements that may not have been deemed necessary to sustain, or promote, their business for at least a few more years to come. However, this initiative launched by the FCC requires them to fast track these enhancements, which are unplanned, and rather significant investments for a majority of the internet service providers.

The bottom line is that this investment, although it is one that would very probably be lucrative and beneficial for these organizations in the long run, would most probably have to be incurred by you, the consumer. Most organizations would incur a massive cut on their short term profits. This hit couldn’t have come at a worse time, especially because some of these organizations, who didn’t have much to show their shareholders during the recession, were finally looking to show profits and make up for lost revenue.

But now, with the FCC initiative in effect, these organizations are anticipating at least a couple more quarters, if not more, of slim profits. To increase their margin of profits, these organizations are most likely going to revise their pricing strategy, even if it means the loss of a few customers here and there.

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In50hrs – The Idea-to-Prototype Event

In50hrs is an interesting concept, where ideas meet doer to build something in a short time – a weekend.

In50hrs is The Idea-To-Prototype Event. Entrepreneurs (or Idea Smiths), Developers and Product Designers come together to work on audacious ideas and build working prototypes (MVP) over a Weekend.

In50hrs

In50hrs have few chapters happening across major Indian cities –

  • Bangalore: Nov 23-25, 2012
  • Pune: Dec 14-16, 2012
  • Chennai: Jan 11-13, 2013

I registered for the Bangalore Chapter. I have few ideas and I’ll also be doing the design part – HTML, CSS, Graphics. I can also write codes and be part of the development and help design the product in direct co-ordination with a developer.

If you’re a developer or a student who have good programming skill and have registered for In50hrs, Bangalore, I’d welcome you to contact me to see how we can work together. Do check out my personal page to see if I’m cool enough to be your partner.

Do visit the In50hrs Facebook Group.