Where are we going?
Our team’s backgrounds at Work-Bench are somewhat non-traditional for venture capital, and based on our prior experiences in corporate IT evaluating startups as vendors at places like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, it’s given us a unique lens on the enterprise technology landscape.
For this post I had some fun and interviewed several corporate executives operating in the Machine Intelligence domain. What follows are several nuggets from our conversations, which by sharing I hope can provide some more context into how the Fortune 1000 are positioning themselves to leverage this technology wave.
On continually revalidating your models. “As we rely on machines more for computation and stats, we need to be careful when things go wrong without us even realizing. Maybe having a feedback loop in there for the future is part of the answer. We teach business partners that “data doesn’t lie” but it can tell different stories, so it’s critical to be aware of where the pitfalls are, and continually revalidate the model. An example of this is how some deep learning models will find a cat in white noise, so need to correct for those errors continually.”
Once you let machines make decisions that are no longer intuitive to humans, how do you keep checks and balances in place? “We employ various techniques that use sampling. Granted though, this assumes that the future will look like the past. We try to offset this by retesting constantly through automation.”
Bias can bust your best efforts. “Confidence intervals need to accurately consider the biases that occur, whether in areas like the method of reporting or the biases analysts’ themselves might hold. A thorough review process will help root out biases and reflect a more precise error calculation than an analyst’s own prediction.”
On domain expertise. “While the data might tell a story, domain expertise can steer and identify contextual biases that data alone can’t pick up. Having groundtruth is as important as, if not more than, the data science skills to back it up.”
Technology architecture: modular, composable is the credo. “No black boxes for the enterprise, because point solutions won’t scale machine learning across an organization. Synergies can be created by applying a single machine learning engine across different use cases. This begets an IT architecture that can integrate seamlessly across disparate IT systems.”
Pro/Con — Does TensorFlow have a use case on Wall Street?
Con — to quote a senior ML leader at a top-tier bank, “TensorFlow is an incredibly costly exercise and there aren’t enough cats at [Bank Name] to justify a business need. For all of deep learning’s hype, in financial services it’s hard to find a suitable use case to justify it. It’s mainly incremental and you can reach same results faster and cheaper with linear regression, especially if you’ve spent tons of time tweaking your model. You don’t get that “Aha!” moment like spotting cancer on an image, which makes deep learning approaches hard to sell to the business since you’re relying on continually incremental results.”
Pro — Another exec disagrees and argues that “you can’t say TensorFlow doesn’t work in finance at all. Take an area like KYC or AML where there’s a process and existing tools, there are huge amounts of data, and regulators dictate how things should be done. You can use TensorFlow and compare it to your existing workflow to look for efficiency gains and where you can reduce headcount. Some other general use cases to explore include churn, marketing, and IT support as well.”
– Jonathan Lehr, Co-Founder and General Parter of Work-Bench
Awesome, not awesome.
“The chronic neurological condition called Alzheimer’s disease is one of the more insidious in modern society. In 2015, some 30 million were thought to have this disease. As a hugely expensive condition to manage, this places significant burdens on health-care systems all over the world. Although there is no known way to halt the disease in advanced cases, there is evidence that its progression can be slowed or halted if it is identified early… now a neural network can identify those likely to be diagnosed in the next three years.” — Learn More on MIT Technology Review >
“FaceApp, a photo-editing app that uses a neural network for editing selfies in a photorealistic way, has apologized for building a racist algorithm. The app lets users upload a selfie or a photo of a face, and offers a series of filters that can then be applied to the image to subtly or radically alter its appearance… The problem is the app also included a so-called “hotness” filter, and this filter was racist. As users pointed out, the filter was lightening skin tones to achieve its mooted “beautifying” effect.” — Natasha Lomas, Journalist.Learn More on TechCrunch >
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What we’re reading.
1/ What do travel agents, interaction designers, engineers, and scriptwriters all have in common? Companies are hiring them to teach AI-enabled software to be more human. Learn More on The New York Times >
2/ Artificial intelligence is not enough for startups to be defensible. Founders must also nail the customer experience to build a gator-infested swamp around their company. Learn More on Greylock Partners >
3/ IKEA launched a global survey to figure out what behaviors and personality people expect AI to have — so they aren’t freaked out when their couch starts cracking jokes. Learn More on Do You Speak Human >
4/ The world’s largest tech companies are fighting for access to datasets that can be studied under the “broadest consents that are ethically possible” to feed their AI systems. Learn More on TechCrunch >
5/ An AI startup that figures out what type of clothing you’re likely to buy based on outfits you’re looking at online is shaking up the fashion industry. Learn More on Fast Company >
6/ The founder of Wired argues that there will never be a superhuman general AI, only “many hundreds of extra-human news species of thinking.” Learn More on Backchannel >
7/ According to a leading investor, the time is right to build a career in AI, augmented reality, and a few other spaces because your experience will prime you to spot the next hyper-growth company worth working for. Learn More on Twitter >
Links from the community.
“Oh great, another machine learning story…” submitted by Nadir Vissanjy. Learn More on The Hustle >
“Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now” submitted by Cecelia Shao (@ceceliashao). Learn More on Wired >
“An Unpopular Point of View on Many Enterprise ‘AI’ Products” submitted by Avi Eisenberger (@aeisenberger). Learn More on Twitter >
“Machine Learning Data Management Startup SafeGraph raises $ 16M” submitted by Jay Zaveri (@super_jz). Learn More on SiliconANGLE >
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