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Artificial Intelligence as a Platform

With much talk these days about “platforms”, I wanted to put down some thoughts around the platform as a concept, their evolution as well as future implications around artificial intelligence as a platform tool.

What is a platform?

The dictionary defines a platform as:

“a raised level surface on which people or things can stand”

So what is the purpose of an elevated level surface on which people or things can stand?

I think the most obvious benefits would include some variation on the following:

• To see or be seen
• To hear or be heard
• To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

To see or be seen

Taking this metaphor further, the obvious examples are applications like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The power of these platforms, barely 10 years old have enabled people around the world to accomplish some pretty radical feats, previously difficult to reproduce.

I ran into an old acquaintance this week who I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 5 years. We knew all about each other’s families, recent vacations and accomplishments before the first sentence could be uttered. We’ve quickly integrated and normalized these now ordinary capabilities into our everyday lives, but this is as close to omniscience as I can imagine we’ve ever been.

To hear or be heard

Back in Mozart’s time, the people who were able to witness his musical talents were limited to the fortunate few who were able to fit into his concert halls. Platforms such as iTunes have leveled the playing field giving anyone on the planet with smartphone access to billions of ears.

To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

Uber and Airbnb are the newest members in a string of platforms creating a near-perfect matching of supply and demand. To match “I have a car” with “I need a car” without the need for any searching, or struggle is an extremely powerful use of the platform model, and I think this is a preview of what is to come over the next few years.

Artificial Intelligence as a platform tool

In terms of technology, a calculator in its simplest form is a platform that enables more advanced, accurate, and efficient calculations, allowing its users to achieve greater and possibly more advanced results. I can remember doing our multiplication tables in elementary — getting the number combinations driven into our heads so that they came to us intuitively.

However, from the standpoint of cognitive load, one could argue that the time spent memorizing these tables took away from practicing more advanced mathematical calculations at an earlier age. A handful of schools in Finland have taken this concept to heart and allowed calculators in the classrooms from the outset. They have the viewpoint that these platforms will create space to focus on more advanced and practical problem sets earlier on, giving their students a leg up on the traditional model of learning.

Comments like Elon Musk’s recent musings on the “non-benign” apocalyptic fate of our AI future are having people take notice. However, I am of the mindset that AI is going to play out as a more advanced version of the calculator. I believe it will allow us to access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible — leading to a world of abundance, as Peter Diamandis puts it.

One of my “Massively Transformative Purposes” is to help accelerate progress through technology. At the core of this idea is the elimination of waste. Wasted effort through automation, wasted time through digital manufacturing, wasted money through unnecessary advertising and marketing. Focusing instead on delivering greater value through research and innovation.

Artificial Intelligence will be an incredible tool that will enable the elimination of these wastes helping us instead to focus more energy and resources towards creating a better future.

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