THIS WEEK’S ROUND UP – 28 Sept 2018

AI, ACCELERATORS & BLOCKCHAIN

 
Over the last two weeks, I’ve attended a couple of conferences and was on the judging panel at a UAE based accelerator. Three things have cropped up that I’d like to share with you: 

AI

Other than Trump’s Presidency, I don’t think there is a topic that splits opinions like AI. From those who envisage AI taking over the world to the evangelists prophesying a bright future for humanity, AI and its application need a reality check.
 
The one resounding message which is intensifying (and refreshingly so) is our need to consider the longer-term consequences of the use of AI and define a framework for policymakers, regulators, innovators and investors, to make wise decisions. That applies to us as individuals too. Technology is there to make our life easier. However, we need to be disciplined to ensure we don’t delegate our thinking and decision-making to any technology, especially AI, and exercise sound judgement in all that we do. 
 
A simple example is mental arithmetic. Yes, we all have a handy calculator in our phones but should we be lazy and use it for something our brain is capable of doing? Perhaps for the next month, you may want to hold off from using your calculator and take on the challenge of doing maths in your head (or a piece of paper). Feel free to verify on the calculator but keep using those grey cells.
 

Don’t believe the hype

I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with hype which is being proliferated by the innovation ecosystem, drowning out the capabilities of true innovators. Taking a look at some of the accelerators out there, many of them operate on an application process, i.e. people seeing a post and responding to a call for applications. A few experiments I’ve run show a much higher calibre intake if accelerators take a proactive approach to identifying innovators. Of course, part of that includes having sound criteria of what good looks like and cleaning out unconscious biases. Sheera – Sharjah’s Entrepreneurship Centre do this well. Beyond their media outreach, they proactively search for innovators and entrepreneurs. One of the results so far – more female founders! I am watching Sheraa with great interest and you should too.
 

A bazooka to kill a fly

Blockchain 🙂 So first I need to say I love blockchain and some of the potential use cases – as long as they are well thought through and appropriately designed. It does not mean blockchain is a solution for all that ails us in the world. Some of the proposals I have come across are akin to a bazooka being used to kill a fly when a simple fly swatter would work. Key questions: Does it make sense and is there a better way that is less complicated, less costly and more efficient?
 
That’s about it for this week. I welcome your views so let’s continue the conversation.