Analytics Unleashed keynoter Scheibenreif examines how ‘we shape AI, AI shapes us’

In a presentation at IT World Canada’s Analytics Unleashed on Tuesday, Gartner Distinguished VP analyst Don Scheibenreif discussed what organizations need to do in order to handle the generative artificial intelligence (GenAi) juggernaut and artificial intelligence (AI) in general.

The content he delivered was originally seen by a packed house of upwards of 8,000 chief information officers (CIOs) and other senior IT executives attending an opening day keynote address at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2023 in Orlando in mid-October.

Scheibenreif and fellow Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst Mary Mesaglio were on stage to discuss the year’s hottest topic – generative AI (GenAI) – and how best to “stay out in front in this new era of human-machine relationships.” The title of their address was The Next Era – We Shape AI, AI Shapes Us.

“The truth is that we are at the beginning of a new era where AI is going to infuse everything that we do,” he told Analytics Unleashed attendees. “The last technology this huge was back in 2007 with the introduction of the iPhone, and before that it was 1993 with the arrival of the worldwide web.

“One of the things that we wanted to communicate in this year’s keynote is to get people to think about their relationship with machines, not just as tools, but how they can affect all parts of our lives, both at work and at home.”

There were, said Scheibenreif, four primary takeaways, starting with the fact the human-machine relationship  is fundamental to understanding AI. “We have to be very mindful about our relationship with machines, because they’re changing. They are moving from not just being our tools to actually becoming our teammates.

“This is part of an evolution that’s been taking place for a long time, and AI is not new, but GenAI and the associated tools have certainly sparked a lot of conversations about the role of machines in our lives. And it’s asking us to think about not what machines can do for us, but what machines can be for us. Machines as teammates, but also machine as a friend, as a consultant, machine as a customer, even.”

At a corporate level, the focus is squarely going to be on senior IT executives, he added, to deliver value, as judged by “our research that tells us about 51 per cent of CEOs expect the CIO or other tech leaders to really help the organization get the most value from investments in generative AI and AI in general. So, CIOs not only have a role, they actually have the role, at least for now.”

The second takeaway revolved around what Gartner defines as Everyday AI and Game Changing AI. The former, says Gartner, is focused on productivity: “The machine is a productivity partner. It enables workers to do what they already do, faster and more efficiently. Currently, 77 per cent of CIOs and technology leaders worldwide are focused on the opportunities of everyday AI.”

In Orlando, Mesaglio warned that “it is important to note that everyday AI will go from dazzling to ordinary with outrageous speed. Everyone will have access to the same tools, and it will not provide a sustainable competitive advantage.”

She described game-changing AI as being focused primarily on creativity. “It doesn’t just make us faster or better. Either it creates new results, via AI-enabled products and services, or it creates new ways to create new results, such as with AI-enabled new core capabilities. With game-changing AI, machines will disrupt business models and entire industries.”

In his address this week, Scheibenreif said the third takeaway revolved around every organization needing to define its own AI ambition and be governed by what Gartner calls Lighthouse principles. “This is very, very important. We’ve seen recently in the news how the lack of governance can impact organizations – i.e. OpenAI. We want to make sure that you as clients, and as organizations that are engaged in AI, can actually follow some of these Lighthouse principles to be able to govern your own use of the technology.

“In reality, most organizations really have to think about their opportunities for AI. How will you use this technology? What won’t you use the technology for? These are all important questions you’ll have to consider when thinking about AI in your organization.”

Lighthouse principles, he said, help “light the way when things are murky or unclear.”

The fourth and final takeaway is this: If your data is not ready for AI, then you are not ready for AI. Gartner analysis recently revealed that 96 per cent of organizations’ data is not ready for AI, and only four per cent is, which is, said Scheibenreif, “a problem, because if your data is not ready, then your ability to tap into some of the of the opportunities that AI offers will be limited.

“What is AI-ready data is one of the main things we talked about in the keynote. It is secure, obviously, it is enriched, it is fair, it is accurate, and it is governed by Lighthouse principles that you will have developed for your organization.

“Now, the other thing about data is that we’ve all been taught to believe that our mountains of data are actually mountains of gold. But in truth, it’s actually fool’s gold. Not all of it matters. We instead are encouraging organizations to focus on making that data essential to your AI ambition, ready for AI. And that includes your algorithms, your formulas, your blueprints, your schematics, and any type of data that’s really proprietary to your organization. That is the real goal – you don’t have to make all of your data ready for AI, just that which serves your AI ambition.”

Gartner, said Scheibenreif, believes that the CIO can be the guide “for the executive team when it comes to AI, and also be part of the team that helps govern its use. We also believe that you have to choose your AI ambition. What do you want to use this technology for? What will it do for you? And what won’t it do for you?”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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