Report from TechConnect World: Enabling the good guys to realize the promise of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of today’s technology. Its potential to enable meaningful advancements in how we live is almost endless. Yet, there’s also a lurking dark side and a few bad examples of AI that can overshadow how the power of the technology is perceived.

The good news is I’m confident that innovators want to ensure the AI-enabled solutions they are building produce the results they intend and protect data privacy.

I recently spoke about the pending American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) as part of an AI Innovations session at TechConnect World with a standing-room-only crowd of entrepreneurs, academics and venture capitalists. A line of folks queued to speak with me after the session to learn more about what we at SenecaGlobal call audited AI — the intentional process of continually testing and optimizing AI algorithms to ensure they are on track and provide useful information as intended. It’s a critical best practice to properly train AI algorithms that is also baked into the ADPPA currently under consideration in Congress.

It was heartening to have these conversations with so many professionals who, like me, are intent on leveraging AI to accelerate how they solve real-world issues.

AI in action

TechConnect World was a showcase for how AI is being applied in several industries. These three examples illustrate how AI can be used to efficiently analyze data and uncover insights that would take humans months or years to assess, if at all.

Healthcare — Drug trials are time intensive and expensive. Dr. Bruna Jacobson from the University of New Mexico is leveraging AI to quickly identify protein-ligand bonding sites to speed the development of new drugs and treatments. Dr. Chidinma Ekenna from the University of Albany is using AI and machine learning (ML) to shorten the assessment of potential drugs and treatments to fight the spread of malaria in Africa. AI is used to look at chemical compounds to see if they have the right structures and chemical properties to attack the different variants of malaria. It’s a process that has applications for Covid and many other infectious diseases. Essentially, AI breaks down the complexities of analyzing these 3D puzzles to identify what compounds show the best promise. Leveraging AI and ML in these processes has the potential to shorten the development of new drugs by a year or more.

Cybersecurity — Roselle Safran (previously cybersecurity operations chief in the Office of the President during the Obama administration) from KeyCaliber spoke about how AI is used in the company’s risk assessment platform to secure an enterprise’s sensitive documents. She reports that most CEOs underestimate the number of locations where critical data is stored. With the help of AI, the KeyCaliber solution analyzes the data siloes, identifies the locations of sensitive documents, what tools are available to remediate problems and provides risk scores on all the vulnerable areas so you can correctly prioritize how to harden your network.

Military operations — Santos, a startup out of the University of Iowa, uses AI to create virtual soldiers to enable them to assess and improve troop readiness for specific missions. By combining specific data about site conditions, physical attributes of soldiers and other pertinent information, the Santos solution predicts the optimal strategy to reach the mission’s objective versus relying on historical averages to inform decisions. Some of Santos’ specialties are military vehicle evaluation, human systems integration and human performance assessment. The speaker also mentioned the company was approached by roller coaster designers to leverage this technology during development to create simulations of how humans are affected by rides so alterations can be made before prototypes are built. It was news to me that the current accepted practice is to test new roller coaster designs with human volunteers!  No thanks 🙁

Moving forward

We know bad actors will use AI for cyberattacks and to manipulate people. Combating those folks will spawn a new generation of innovative solutions.

On the bright side, we’re seeing how AI enables the good guys to accelerate the pace of innovation. Today, AI is used to speed new drugs to market, secure businesses and improve the capabilities of the US military. By recognizing that AI requires constant monitoring, these tech professionals are well-positioned to leverage AI to solve previously arduous or impossible challenges.

About SenecaGlobal

Founded in 2007, SenecaGlobal is a global leader in software development and management. Services include software product development, application software development, enterprise cloud and managed services, quality assurance and testing, security, operations, help desk, technology advisory services and more. The company’s agile team consists of world-class information technologists and business executives across industries, ensuring that we provide clients with a strong competitive advantage.

SenecaGlobal is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and has a state-of-the-art software development and management center in Hyderabad, India. The company is certified as a Great Place to Work® and is ISO 9001 certified for quality and ISO 27001 certified for security.