Tag Archive for: AI

After many stops and starts it finally appears that we are on the verge of a true convergence explosion between Internet of Things (IOT), AI, and blockchain. Or in other words, the production of data, the consumption of data and the distribution of data.

To review:

IoT, pertains to the interconnectivity of the world around us—basically how all of our personal and home devices work together to optimize daily human life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has previously been described as the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that previously had required human interaction, but today it pertains more to algorithms that assemble and analyze personal data which is then used to facilitate and streamline human existence.

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. The technology often involves bitcoin or other similarly cryptocurrencies. The main benefit of blockchain is that it catalogues data into a permanent record along a chain that is transparent and linear.

The convergence of these technologies come with both enormous benefits and also significant risks. Industries have been looking at blockchain as a way to streamline their processes and make tracking and data collection simpler and more transparent. In the past, there have been those who worried about the susceptibility of IoT and AI to the hacking of encryption services. Those security concerns are one of the main reasons why we haven’t yet seen a true explosion of the convergence of IoT, blockchain and AI but the tide has begun to turn as blockchain advances have now made the aforementioned hacking more difficult.

What are the key convergence highlights? One of the main ideas at the interaction of AI and Blockchain is the data marketplace. If everyone owns their own data and can make it available as they choose in a private manner, we could have more data in aggregate.  To truly achieve its potential, each of the three building blocks of AI must be made available in a centralized, private, and secured manner.

Outlier Ventures explains the need for the Convergence Ecosystem by saying, “The Internet of Things is creating an unmanageable data environment, and artificial intelligence is giving those who control the most data more power than any company in history.”  Outlier adds, “The integration of these technologies will see markets become increasingly open-sourced, distributed, decentralized, automated, and tokenized.”

Observers are closely watching which sectors and companies will emerge atop the convergence industry bracket. Interestingly, this convergence war echoes what occurred several years ago with cloud/mobile convergence. The companies who emerged victorious from that battle were not initial sweetheart companies like Lycos and Yahoo but rather Microsoft, Amazon and surprisingly, IBM, a company once associated with hardware who has made significant inroads into this space, especially as of late.

Several budding convergence sectors will undoubtedly determine the winners and losers. The Government Accountability Office recently identified eight industries where convergence has the greatest upside. They include the health care industry, transportation (both personal and commercial), smart homes and buildings, manufacturing, supply chains, wearables, agriculture and energy. Other industries that appear primed to take full advantage of the technology include farming, marketing, retail and the financial services arena.

So if you’re making your convergence picks who should be in your Final Four? Not surprisingly the smart money is on the companies that are already leaders in the digital economy like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and, despite their recent Cambridge Analytica issues, Facebook. These behemoths have access to a wealth of data and already have established footholds in the IoT landscape. Google, for example, has cornered the market on geographic mapping. But the companies who could become major convergence players aren’t simply limited to the GAFA Four. Metromile, for example, is a San Francisco based company which provides per-mile auto insurance along with an app called The Pulse, which collects data about trips and car health. Ecobee is a Canadian home automation company that makes thermostats and smart light switches for both residential and commercial use and a company like Ring is already a major player in the home security field.

In the health care field, Chrono Therapeutics is focusing on improving clinical outcomes for patients battling addiction and living with neurological disorders via their Integrated Dosing Solution. The company integrates timed drug delivery with personalized, mobile-based digital support and data analytics which seeks to maximize compliance and improve overall patient health. Several smaller start-ups have a real shot at establishing and solidifying a hold on a market that escapes the view of one of the aforementioned tech giants.


Article first appeared on Forbes.com




“I’m close to artificial intelligence (AI) and it scares the hell out of me,” said Elon Musk during HBO’s Westworld panel at South by Southwest this year. “It’s capable of vastly more than anyone knows, and the improvement is exponential.” Musk cited the example of AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence program best known as the first computer program to defeat a professional human player at the boardgame Go. The AI had been trained to tackle the Chinese game “Go,” which is a 2,000-plus year old abstract war simulation.  In 2016, Google announced that its program had defeated every other Go-playing software — and a formidable human opponent, Fan Hui, a European champion. Then, it bested the world champion, Lee Sedol, four games out of five, in a competition that was live-streamed on YouTube.

The threat of machines getting smarter than their creators is so real, in fact, that Musk calls for public oversight to ensure the technology is developed safely. “The danger of AI is much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads — by a lot,” Musk said. “Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”

We do not want to be paralyzed by fear.  At the annual Milken conference this week, there was a much more optimistic tone as AI was brought up in many of the sessions.  The conference highlighted some of the positive real world work being done by women in AI and how AI’s applications are being brought into the present. Women are proving that AI is not limited to the scary future of man vs. machine, they’re running companies currently utilizing AI in healthcare, fashion and retail; real world applications of AI that other women can appreciate and sink their teeth into.

In a Milken session about AI and medicine, Dr. Iya Khalil spoke about AI and healthcare.  She is the female co-founder of GNS Healthcare, a healthcare analytics company using the latest innovations in machine learning to turn data into solutions that slow disease progression, reduce adverse events and and optimize therapeutic effectiveness. Khalil is a tech entrepreneur, physicist and inventor that is leading the charge in harnessing data to transform our health.

At Milken, Khalil spoke about how AI and machine learning can reduce drug discovery times and enable precision medicine with the goal of improving outcomes and reducing the costs of R&D.  Her goal is to leverage these capabilities to transform medicine from an expert-driven field – with poor predictive power and large gaps in its fundamental understanding of human biology – and transform it into a data-driven predictive science – with a more complete understanding of the mechanisms of disease and response to interventions.

Another area of optimism in AI is in fashion and retail.  Women, like Anastasia Sartan and Marianna Milkis-Edwards, the co-founders of  Epytom, and what they call “the first AI personal stylist,” are developing real world applications that can be used now.  The company is building a no-waste, made to order, customer-centric supply chain based on AI and machine learning. This is an area that is catching the eye of many larger players, as both Walmart and Amazon have invested heavily in this space. Epytom’s brainchild is their Facebook Messenger fashion assistant, Epytom Stylist. If you’re like me, every morning you open your closet, ponder your outfit choices and ultimately declare, “I have nothing to wear.” Epytom is like having your own personal stylist at your beck and call. It analyzes your existing wardrobe and suggests outfits via chat based on your daily agenda, personality and even weather in your location. Epytom also figures out what other clothing items will maximize your wardrobe’s potential and then designs and produces them just for you.

A seasoned fashion-tech entrepreneur, Sartan founded Trends Brands, a Russian online store, which in 2011 won Best New Shop by TimeOut Moscow. She was a finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015.  Milkis-Edwards as the fashion editor of InStyle Magazine was tired of the fashion industry’s push to keep buying. They joined forces to create an alternative to the current broken fashion supply chain and customer experience.

“We learned how to digitize our users’ fashion taste,” says Epytom Founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan. “Most people can’t explain why they like or hate a certain look. We replace ‘why’ with ‘how.’ Instead of trying to get into a user’s head, we employ neural networks to reverse-engineer their style profile through signals they send on a whim: ‘I’d totally wear this outfit!’ or ‘I’d never buy a skirt like this!’ Neural networks unlock what neither we, nor the user, can put into words.”

Epytom aims to eliminate mass production that leaves stores with dead stock and shoppers with an overwhelming choice of subpar apparel. They also save time, eliminating the need to pile through racks of clothes attempting to find just the right item to buy or outfit for the day. Also, Epytom saves their customers money by teaching their old and new personalized clothes “new tricks.” It is the company’s mantra that you can have perfect style with as few as 40 pieces.

The uses of AI are far reaching and it’s important to have women take the lead in machine-learning initiatives that are geared towards their end user, women. The real-world applications of AI that women are creating are far away from the futuristic gloom and doom stories you may hear at SXSW about robot takeovers and are bound to improve millions of lives. In the near future we’ll have even more women to thank for advances in AI due to programs like AI4ALL, a nonprofit with summer programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley. They give AI training to diverse groups of high school students, focusing on teaching female, minority, and low-income students. AI4ALL received funding from Melinda Gates in 2017 and is adding four more universities in 2018.

I am encouraged by the advancements in AI and the part women have played in healthcare and in industries like fashion that are so far-reaching. For now, instead of being scared about the takeover of humanity, I’m happy to focus on using AI for good, right now. I’ll leave the fear-mongering to Elon Musk.


Published in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/05/07/the-women-making-ai-less-scary-and-more-accessible/2/#1858c2fc4b76

Image: NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 12: Model, philanthropist, and investor Natalia Vodianova, Epytom founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan, and MSNBC ‘Your Business’ host JJ Ramberg speak onstage during Vanity Fair’s Founders Fair at Spring Studios on April 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Recently, a woman told her story of being virtually groped in a leading virtual reality (VR) game called QuiVR. When she entered the game’s multi-player mode, a fellow gamer named BigBro442 began to fondle her Avatar. Now the company purposely built the game so each Avatar is physically gender neutral but they did allow these beings to have the player’s individual voice. When the woman began playing, her fellow combatants realized she was a woman after hearing her speak and BigBro442 decided it would be acceptable (and probably funny) to virtually sexually assault her. The woman explains the assault in detail through her blog on Medium.

QuiVR developers Henry Jackson and Jonathan Schenker found out about this situation and went to work fixing the problem. Yet this remains a serious issue in the VR world. Women in business have faced decades of harassment and gender inequality in blue chip industries such as law, advertising and the financial sector, but we need to now also pay close attention to virtual reality, and all of Silicon Valley for that matter.

Is harassment in the VR arena the same as in the workplace? The real question should be: does it really matter? It’s difficult to completely eliminate the possibility of this kind of unfortunate event, but what is vital is the need to offer the tools to re-empower the player in real time as it’s happening.

Jesse Fox, an Ohio State University professor who researches the social implications of virtual worlds said, “It wouldn’t be different if someone sent you a harassing email to your work email or harassed you in a chat room.” But Fox warns that virtual reality opens the door to a new level of violation.

“What’s different about virtual environments is an extra layer of immersion. If you are being groped in the real world versus a virtual world, the visual stimuli do not differ,” she said. “You are seeing it. It is appearing to happen to your own body. Those layers of lifelike experience are going to be more traumatizing in that moment.”

As harassers begin to be singled out and ostracized in the real world do we now face a rising tide of VR sexual assaults? Will these worlds allow the anonymity that abusers will see as a “safe haven”? And will these technologies become male-only because women are going to feel as triggered and traumatized in the VR space as they do in the real world?

Here are the first two steps that need to occur: First, game developers need a clear understanding and admission that there is a problem. And, second, they need to create a solution that will ensure every gamer, no matter their gender, feels comfortable in multi-player games. The fix for the game mentioned above was to create a virtual “bubble” to be placed around the player during the game. Other solutions include VR experiences eliminating all individual gamers’ personal characteristics, specifically instituting a gender neutral voice.

The bubble that is now featured in QuiVR may, on paper, look like a tiny fix, but the key here is that the creators and developers are now understanding that they need to foster as safe of an environment in VR as they do in their company’s offices. Change will only happen and it is indeed happening, when all developers come to that realization.

But what isn’t being discussed as a solution is one that quite possibly could be the most effective. Women have made great strides in becoming more represented in every level of corporations and organizations and having women involved in every phase of the development and implementation of VR games and platforms could be the true game changer. Right now the industry is so male-dominated that many developers simply fail to understand or completely ignore situations in VR that women may find objectionable and rightly label as harassment. Having women involved in the development and beta testing of this content would greatly eliminate the possibility that female users would suddenly find themselves in uncomfortable or emotionally damaging situations.

As a side note, part of the allure and the promise of VR was that it would enable the viewer to completely understand the subject matter by actually becoming a part of it. A documentary filmmaker, for example, can detail the horrors that animals face in factory farms but the empathy level is expanded exponentially when he or she also includes a virtual reality experience. The recent production, I Animal, from the group Animal Equality places the viewer directly in a factory farm so they are fully immersed in the experience.

Studies have shown that women are generally more empathetic than men so doesn’t it make sense that women should make a significant contribution to VR content that is so heavily rooted in empathy? Change will only happen when CEOs in the VR space realize the importance of including women on the ground floor of these emerging technologies.


Article first appeared in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/04/02/ethical-ai-is-vr-harassment-the-same-as-workplace-harassment/2/#67764b4a5213

Image: Shutterstock