IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

True AI – A long and winding road?

By Contributor
Mon 23 Dec 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by NetEvents editor Lionel Snell

Suddenly we are inundated with Artificial Intelligence (AI): smart kettles, smart houses and cities, self-parking cars... and every cloud service now seems to be claiming some AI or Machine learning (ML) capability.

So how come a discussion panel at this year’s NetEvents Global IT Summit, San Jose, USA, was entitled How long is the road to AI?

It is time to put aside the hype and grandiose claims and consider what we, and the marketers, actually mean by “intelligence”, and how far we are getting towards that promised land.

GlobalData technology group research and analysis head Jeremiah Caron introduced and chaired the discussion saying: “The objective is to talk about the premise of AI, what is actually being delivered, and what we see in the short term going forward.”

He pointed out a discrepancy between spending expectations – Data Science reported over 70% expecting to spend a lot on machine learning, 60% in computer vision applications – while a mere 47% reckoned that AI would be important for their future business.

“Companies don't necessarily think about AI, but what AI will do for them. They want to apply AI. That's what they care about.”

This was not a standalone panel: it followed a keynote presentation by Ravi Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of Cisco’s enterprise networking business, on The Network is The Business, which covered ground about the role of AI in the network, notable for assisting management and security.

One of his points was that “While the Industrial Revolution liberated humans from the limits of their physical capabilities, the digital revolution is going to liberate us from the limits of our mental capabilities” – a point that would be underlined later in this discussion.

He also drew an important distinction between Machine Reasoning (MR) and Machine learning (ML).

MR is an “expert system” that compares observed data with a large knowledge base of human experience and knowledge in order to make “intelligent” decisions.

At its simplest, consider a toilet flush that notes one variable (water level), one strategy (close the valve when tank full), to produce one intelligent outcome (allow the tank to fill but never overflow).

The difference between that and IBM’s “Deep Blue” – the program that shocked the world by defeating the world’s chess champion in 1997 – is largely a matter of scale. Chess begins with just 32 pieces that can occupy 64 spaces, but those small numbers can generate a colossal number of permutations.

Add to that, centuries of strategic expertise from past chess masters to produce one intelligent outcome – checkmate – and you have MR at its best.

Then compare Deep Blue with AlphaZero, which achieved world dominance not only in chess but also the far more challenging game Go, simply by playing millions of games against itself without any further human input or expertise.

This example of Machine learning shook the AI world, but it is worth noting that Go is simply about alternately placing black or white pieces on a 19 by 19 grid: the resulting game becomes remarkably complex but, compared with the rapid decisions and actions made by a human driver in rush hour traffic, it is pretty trivial.

This distinction between the enormous adaptability of human intelligence, versus the power of AI, when focused on very limited tasks, was emphasised by another panel member: Stanford Professor David Cheriton – perhaps better known as an exceptional IT investor and entrepreneur, the co-founder of Apstra.

Cheriton says that people are too concerned about replicating human intelligence. “In my view, humans are relatively slow and unreliable at almost any task. There are 7 billion people on the planet, computers can beat every one of us. So the idea of trying to reproduce human intelligence is misguided. What we are actually trying to do is to automate intelligent actions – something computers can do much better than a human. Because what we want is predictable performance. That's what engineering is all about: building things with predictable performance.”

This distinction was endorsed by another panel member: Nick McMenemy, CEO of Renewtrak, a fully automated white label business which pursues support maintenance and licencing renewals.

“We use a lot of machine learning, we don't use AI per se. This raised a very important distinction for me: people talk about artificial intelligence, when really they're talking about automating intelligent behaviour.”

As Ravi Chandrasekaran said, “the digital revolution is going to liberate us from the limits of our mental capabilities” and we are now talking about these limits: being flexible and inventive is a great human ability, but when it comes to the grind of weighing up thousands of chess moves – or renewing a pile of low margin contracts – we get bored, make mistakes and are better off handing the job to an automated system.

This, for panel host Caron, raised the question of human redundancy: “You quickly get into the human discussion in any conversation about automation or AI. We've all agreed that humans are pretty bad at a lot of things.

“So, Ravi, what does that mean for the army of Cisco experts out there?”

The reply was that basically we are automating to save them from being bogged down in network complexity: “It's not trying to replace people. It is freeing up so they can get their job done better” – again, liberating us from the limits of our mental capabilities.

Jeremiah Caron raised a question about the need for new regulation against the challenges of AI implementation, and Professor Cheriton came down hard on this, saying: “I'm not a big fan of regulation.”

He mentioned the recent Boeing 737 example: if that system had been based on machine learning it should be seen as bad engineering, the same as if the wings had just fallen off: “If you deploy something in a safety-critical environment, and you can't predict how it's going to behave, that has to be viewed as irresponsible.”

Predictability is a key selling point for Renewtrak, as Nick McMenemy explained: “Predictability is a mandatory, not just for the CFO. Clients want predictability that something's going to happen.  The staff want predictability that they can understand something has taken place.” This is what turns their customers from sceptics to believers.

Among the comments from the floor, someone brought up the need for cleaner data if we are to trust machine learning: “You cannot compare if it has come from different versions of the operating system or different products... Small deviations lead to a very different conclusion unless you take them into account.”

Professor Cheriton provided an interesting example that had a bearing on the need for clean data.

A colleague at Stanford had collected something like two million images for image-recognition systems to play with, and they were getting some very promising results – for example, recognising the difference between photos of a dog or of a wolf.

So what was the AI actually looking at?

The key difference  was found to be that wolf pictures included snow and bushes, where dogs were against a grass background:  “The point of this is that we thought we were further along in solving this problem than we were.”

This background “noise” provided a great example of the need for cleaner data.

As for those “promising results”, I’d give the last word to Professor Cheriton, the self-confessed “AI sceptic”.

He said: “When people have asked me over the last 35 years in Stanford what I thought of AI, I say it's a very promising technology.  It's been promising ever since I encountered it and continues to promise.  It suffers from over-promising.”

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
Zscaler, AWS accelerate onramp to the cloud with zero trust
Zscaler has announced an extension to its relationship with Amazon Web Services, as well as innovations built on Zscaler's Zero Trust architecture.
Story image
Aqua Security, CIS create software supply chain security guide
Aqua Securityand the Center for Internet Security have together released the industry’s first formal guidelines for software supply chain security.
Story image
Threat actors ramp up their social engineering attacks
As people get better at identifying potential threats in their inbox, threat actors must evolve their methods. Their new M.O? Social engineering.
Story image
Commerce Commission
ComCom puts electronics sector on notice over resale price maintenance
The Commerce Commission has concluded an investigation into allegations that television manufacturers were engaging in illegal resale price maintenance.
Story image
Hundreds arrested, millions seized in global INTERPOL investigation
A two-month-long investigation by INTERPOL this year involved 76 countries and clamped down on organised crime groups behind telecommunications and social engineering scams.
Story image
Rapid7 report examines use of double extortion ransomware attacks
New insight into how attackers think when carrying out cyber attacks, along with further analysis of the disclosure layer of double extortion ransomware attacks, has come to light.
Story image
Volpara, Microsoft project to detect cardiovascular issues
Volpara Health Technologies is working with Microsoft on a research and development project to speed up creating a product that detects and quantifies breast arterial calcifications (BACs).
Story image
Orbital Insight
Orbital Insight solution set to drive better data-driven decisions
The company says the new Site Intelligence solution will provide granular visibility, behaviour analytics and deep insights about customers and competitors at any location. 
Story image
Consumers want personalisation, but don't trust brands with their data
Customers expect personalisation during every brand interaction but they don't trust brands to keep their personal data secure and to use it responsibly. 
Story image
Airwallex, Xero extend partnership with easier invoice payments
Airwallex has extended its long-term partnership with Xero by releasing a new payment link integration for Xero invoices that will make receiving them easier and faster for Australian businesses.
Story image
Disaster Recovery
Eaton provides business continuity with disaster avoidance application
Many SMBs often struggle with problems relating to UPS and IT assets due to the sheer amount of time and resources required to run effectively. 
Story image
Jamf updates healthcare IT to protect data on Apple devices
Jamf has rolled out new functionality to help healthcare and IT teams protect patient data and streamline clinical access for their Apple fleet.
Story image
Workday winning on culture and family focus
This family-first approach sees all employees receive access to family-wide private healthcare cover, as well as income protection and life insurance policies.
Story image
Why is NZ lagging behind the world in cybersecurity?
A recent report by TUANZ has revealed that we are ranked 56th in the world when it comes to cybersecurity - a look into why we're so behind and what needs to be done.
Story image
DigiCert acquires DNS Made Easy and affiliated brands
Greg Clark comments, says, "This combination enhances the security of certificate validation and enables the automation of future validations."
Story image
Schneider Electric ups the ante on sustainability strategy
"We've made some progress but to avoid a major energy challenge, all data centres - including distributed edge data centres - must be more sustainable."
Story image
How a single mandate changed software development forever
There’s conjecture about exactly when it was issued and by whom, but a mandate made twenty years ago is continuing to shape the software development process today.
Story image
The rise of digital gifting in the workplace
The name itself does most of the explaining; it’s a gift you receive virtually. But a misconception about digital gifts is that they need to be redeemed virtually as well. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
Cybersecurity priorities for digital leaders navigating digital transformation
In recent years, Asia-Pacific has especially been a hotspot for cyberattacks, and as we continue into 2022, it’s evident that the problem is becoming more significant.
Story image
Open source
DataStax secures US$115 million to fund database expansion
DataStax has secured US$115 million in funding, which it will use to develop and expand its Astra DB multi-cloud database and Astra Streaming service globally.
Story image
Ready for anything with the PagerDuty Operations Cloud
In a world of digital everything, teams face increasing complexity. Ever-growing dependencies across systems and processes put customer and employee experience, not to mention revenue, at risk.
Story image
N4L, Spark, Chorus partner for Hyperfibre school upgrade
Networks for Learning (N4L) has partnered with Spark and Chorus to upgrade Wellington College to Hyperfibre, fostering stronger outcomes for students and teachers.
Story image
How TruSens air purifiers can create healthier workspaces
The pandemic has heightened our awareness of our own and others’ health, and made us all much more conscious of the environments we work in.
Story image
F5 Networks
Telstra, F5 team up to bolster services and solutions
“This partnership demonstrates our ongoing investment into APAC as we continue delivering high value services and solutions to our partners and customers."
Story image
Microsoft launches app for modern selling experience
The new release is designed to enhance CRM systems with customer engagement data from Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.
Story image
VMware wins Google Cloud partner award for infrastructure modernisation
The cloud computing and virtualisation company was recognised for its achievements as part of the Google Cloud ecosystem.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Apptio adds portfolio enhancements to promote digital strategy
"While digitalisation creates opportunities, it also makes budgeting far more complex, leading many companies to waste substantial funds."
Story image
Greater API usage raises concerns for protection - report
Radware has released its 2022 State of API Security report, which shows a rise in APIs, with 92% of the organisations surveyed significantly or somewhat increasing their usage.
Story image
The best ways to attract young talent during labour shortages
New research from Citrix reveals hybrid working and ventures into the metaverse are top of mind for Gen Z workers.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Boomi, Limepay, Thales, VMware & Zoom
We round up all job appointments from June 6-16, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
IT and security team collaboration crucial to data security
Many IT and security decision makers are not collaborating as effectively as possible to address growing cyber threats.
Story image
Dark web
Cybercrime in Aotearoa: How does New Zealand law define it?
‘Cybercrime’ is a term we hear all the time, but what exactly is it, and how does New Zealand define it in legal terms?
Story image
Cloudflare outage in 19 data centers worldwide due to own error
Cloudflare says its outage for 19 of its data centers yesterday was because of a change in a long-running project to increase resilience in its busiest locations.
Story image
Industry-first comprehensive risk-based API security enhances protection
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a crucial part of operating web and mobile application businesses and are causing significant economic growth in the digital sector.
Story image
Microsoft expands APAC Enabler Mentorship Program
"Mentors are the key to success for every professional. A good mentor is a coach, a guide, as well as a vocal advocate."
Story image
Sealord partners with Infor to improve sustainability
Sealord has chosen Infor as a strategic partner to implement an operational cloud-based platform that provides day-one functionality and sustainability gains.
Story image
Robotic Process Automation / RPA
rapidMATION helps Coates achieve success with landmark RPA solution
A strong Robotic Process Automation solution (RPA) can help solve many complex issues that businesses face daily. 
Story image
Hybrid workforce
Why hybrid working is here to stay and how to ace it
Citrix's new report reveals hybrid workers are more productive and engaged at work than their office and completely remote counterparts.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Salesforce harnesses automated solutions with new developments
Salesforce has launched Sales Cloud Unlimited, a new feature to help accelerate productivity with AI and automation.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Cloudflare adds new capabilities to zero trust SASE platform
New features for Cloudflare One include email security protection, data loss prevention tools, cloud access security broker, and private network discovery.
Story image
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Tricentis
Tricentis provides software testing automation, and software quality assurance products for enterprise software.
Story image
Significant security concerns resulting from open source software ubiquity
"The risk is real, and the industry must work closely together in order to move away from poor open source or software supply chain security practices."
Story image
10 Minute IT Jams
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Rimini Street
Today we welcome back Daniel Benad, who is the GVP & regional GM for Oceania at Rimini Street.
Story image
Cyclone selected as NZ MOE software licensing partner
Following a recent Request for Proposal (RFP), Christchurch-based company Cyclone Computer Company Ltd (Cyclone) has been selected as The Ministry of Education’s software licensing partner.