Understanding AI - 3 Must Read AI Books for CIO and IT Leaders

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Last year  I keynoted several talks on AI in the Enterprise: Finding Quick Wins and Avoiding Speed Bumps‍‍‍. This talk is on the practical side of getting started with machine learning. Among my recommendation, I suggest IT leaders invest in data quality and other data governance efforts, perform POCs with some of the more mature AI areas, and find partners that can educate and validate approaches for the strategically important AI opportunities. My post, critical questions to help define winning AI experiments is a good summary.

At the end of one presentation, one leader asked me for a list of recommended reading on AI. It inspired me to read and listen to some of the more recent books on AI and narrow down a few that anyone can read, and IT leaders really should read.


Where AI is today, where it's going, and what the future may hold


The first book I suggest reading is Machine Platform Crowd by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. The book is a good primer for all the emerging technologies and does a great job illustrating the intersection of capabilities driven by machine (AI, robotics, machine learning), platform (Facebook, Airbnb that monopolize experiences) and crowd (from crowdsourcing to blockchain). 

The second book, AI Super Powers by Kai-fu Lee breaks down the foundations for AI, illustrates where Silicon Valley versus China are today, and forecasts who will edge out in four different waves of AI. If you want a good picture on where AI is today and where it will likely be over the next several years, this is a good read. More important, you'll get a sense of where the next wave of competition will come from, ie, China, where they are investing more aggressively and have a political and cultural climate that should help accelerate adoption versus the United States and Europe.

Now the doomsayers and media outlets looking for easy click bait portray a fairly negative outlook for AI including job losses, identity crises, robot overlords, and many other things that can go wrong if AI developments aren't grounded with human-centric values.  The debate is on when Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be discovered, what form it will take, how humans and AGIs will coexist and what will be the outcome be for humanity. Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark first goes through a logical argument on why AGIs will be discovered and shares several academic and analyst timing forecasts. It portrays several scenarios of how humanity may evolve with the emergence of AGIs from utopia to doomsday and several middle-ground scenarios. Most importantly, Tegmark shares the academic and industry efforts to research and define value principles for AGIs.

Takeaways from these books for IT leaders


Here are some of my takeaways

  • AI is here, and real, but use cases are "point solutions" compared to a generalized AI.
  • Industries that already have a foundation in structured data and defined goals/metrics like financial services, insurance, and healthcare are likely to have the fastest advances in AI with potentially disruptive outcomes.
  • Job losses may be significant over the next 5-10 years 15-38% depending on whose research and approach you buy into.
  • Researches are working on the ethics and value principles for AGIs. Larger enterprises should consider participating in this research.
  • Take efforts to inform leaders on the realities of AI and take steps to identify winning business opportunities. 

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