‘We are at a tipping point where AI is really taking off … […] I think we will evolve in computing from a mobile first to an AI first world.’ It is not surprising that Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, repeatedly praises the potential of AI. In an explanation of the quarterly figures of the world’s largest search engine, he says that the past ten years have been about ‘mobile first’. In his view, the next ten years will be about ‘AI first’. He anticipates that in the near future the concept of the device will fade completely. Over time, the computer will become an intelligent assistant regardless of its form, providing you with appropriate support on a human level throughout the day. To make this transition possible, Pichai wants Google to turn into an ‘AI first’ company, obviously with the ambition to become your personal assistant.
At the end of March 2016, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, announced that intelligent bots are also Microsoft’s top priority in its new strategy. In August 2017, Microsoft adapted its mission statement accordingly. In short, the words ‘mobile first’ and ‘cloud first’ have changed to ‘AI first’. Now Microsoft says it is going for an ‘intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with artificial intelligence’. The company puts 5000 AI researchers into a development unit to focus on AI. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook came up with a similar message at the end of 2016: in the roadmap that he presented at his developer conference, AI is a prominent centerpiece, with language, reasoning, planning and vision as important competencies in which computers must excel. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and tech pioneer, even speaks of an ‘AI first world’, a world which, according to Benioff, goes beyond our imagination. He anticipates that AI will be part of all Salesforce apps in the future, for example by answering our question ‘What will I be working on now?’ on a daily basis.
We will no doubt hear ‘AI first’ announcements more often. After ‘digital first’ and ‘mobile first’, the ‘AI first’ decade has begun. Anyone who has followed the developments in the eld of graphics co-processors understands that this meets one of the crucial preconditions. This new hardware generation enables highspeed mathematical calculations that require pattern recognition behind speech, text and image recognition. This allows the software to listen, reason, anticipate and speak. This is not only happening in the cloud but also on the smartphone – ‘intelligence at the edges’, as Nadella calls it so beautifully.
The idea of an ‘AI first’ company is not aimed at deaf ears. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, expresses the ‘why’ of this next step best: ‘Machine learning and AI is a horizontal enabling layer. It will empower and improve every business, every government organization, every philanthropy – basically, there’s no institution in the world that cannot be improved with machine learning.’
Jensen Huang, CEO of Chipmaker Nvidia, shares Jeff Bezos’ opinion. In his speech at the annual developer conference, he referred to a memorable statement by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape: ‘Software is eating the world.’ With this statement, Andreessen meant at the time that everything that can be automated, digitized or virtualized, will be. Huang goes one step further in his story: ‘Software is eating the world, but AI is going to eat software’. According to Huang, the machine intelligence revolution has only just begun and the automotive and health industries will be the first to suffer the consequences. All other industries will follow, there is no escape. Nvidia clearly shows us that ‘data is the new oil and AI is the new engine for innovation’!
AI First means that organizations today should place Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the heart of their digital strategies. ‘AI First: Learning from the machine’ explores the latest developments on the journey to being an AI-first organization and recommends a number of actions. Download it here.