Talking point: Disruptive AI and how business can keep up with it was the theme of the WBS conference
Business start-ups could be the unlikely winners in the Generative AI gold rush as foundation models like Chat GPT are created outside of the Big Tech bubble.
That was the message from technology expert Simon Greenman, from Best Practice AI, one of the keynote speakers at Warwick Business School’s MBA Alumni and Student Conference.
“The reason for this is that Big Tech firms such as Microsoft and Google are generalists,” he told the conference, which was held at the University of Warwick campus from July 21-24.
“And in the fast-growing AI world, we will often need specialists – specialists in dedicated medical AI systems, for example, or providers of open-source AI that decentralises power away from the big operators.”
In fact, the opportunities are already happening, he pointed out. British firm Stability AI raised $101 million to fund its open-source music and image generating systems in October last year, Anthropic AI has raised $450 million in its latest capital round, and a weeks-old French start-up Mistral AI raised $113 million in seed funding in June.
Further down the value chain, there are thousands of new start-ups now developing Generative AI apps, Mr Greenman, who is part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Innovators Community, went on to say in his keynote address.
For example, there is British success story Synthesia, which uses AI to generate audio-visual content, and a whole plethora of app developers operating in the games, design, architectural spaces. There are even AI-driven search engines emerging with an eye on toppling Google from its throne.
Simon Greenman: Generative AI will reduce inequities across the world in writing, education and healthcare
Moreover, there are a growing number of full-stack companies offering a service that handles an entire value chain of activity. For instance, financial news provider Bloomberg is developing a Large Language Model (LLM) that will offer news analysis and classification to all its customers.
Only in “the chips and cloud infrastructure”, Mr Greenman said, would the Big Tech incumbents such as Microsoft and Google continue to hold sway. Otherwise, as in the original gold rushes in the American West and in the Australian outback in the nineteenth century, it will be “those who provide the picks and the shovels and the Levi jeans” who will be making the money.
But there will be losers too, the expert pointed out. Some jobs are bound to be lost as Generative AI wields its influence in the world of knowledge management, particularly in the fields of education, financial advice and media production. Meanwhile, whole countries will be marginalised as AI-industrial power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of LLM firms in the US.
However, once the dust has settled, Mr Greenman believes “Generative AI will change the world for the good”.
“In particular, Generative AI will be able to reduce inequities across the world in writing, education and healthcare.
“Imagine the impact of AI in countries that don’t have enough doctors but do have access to mobile phones.”
AI and wellbeing
One of the most popular sessions at the conference was a panel discussion on AI, wellbeing, and coping in a connected world. The session was chaired by WBS careers manager Sarah Jackson and featured expert insights from a range of WBS students and alumni, including:
- Al Crawford - current Executive MBA student at WBS and Chief Operating Officer of the charity Mental Health Innovations.
- Bola Adesina – WBS alum, Programme Manager and DEI Advisor at Legal and General Investment Manager, and We Are The City Rising Star Award winner.
- Stuart Firth – current Global Online MBA student at WBS and cyber security and threat intelligence professional who has worked with HSBC, Dyson, and Centrica PLC.
Ms Adesina said: “We have to think about how we design the future through technology, AI, and hybrid working to take health and wellbeing into account.
“Where are the opportunities to use AI to create safe spaces? People often talk about mental health being seen as a weakness. That is certainly something that affects CEOs and senior managers in certain industries. Can you imagine a fund manager who is responsible for $2 billion admitting that they have mental health issues? It’s not going to happen.
“And what are the challenges involved in ensuring that AI and digital tools are accessible to everyone? For example, there is a particular challenge around blue collar workers who lie at the intersection of several barriers to accessing digital mental health services. They are more likely to be male, have lower levels of digital literacy, and be less emotionally articulate.”
Mental Health Innovations is already using AI to anonymise data and create an improved system for training volunteers on its text-based crisis line, as well as triaging messages. Mr Crawford said he believed it could even be possible to train AI to ‘show empathy’, which could expand its role.
Fellow panellist Leon Rodin said his firm MyMynd was also exploring whether AI could be used to identify biomarkers such as facial expressions and tone of voice to help diagnosis of mental distress.
All in all, Generative AI will play an increasing role in shaping our future.
Dr Michael Mortensen, Associate Professor of Business Analytics and Data Science at WBS, told the conference that data specialists are already moving towards the assumption that AI will be an equal partner in developing our capabilities and not merely a tool.
To paraphrase JF Kennedy, the challenge is to “ask not what AI can do for you, ask what you can do for AI”.