When I think back to the beginning of 2020, it feels like it was years ago and so many things were drastically different. In fact, in January we were marching towards listing our company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Our team partied all night dancing to Tiesto at our company trip to Vegas – no social distancing required. I was traveling to Japan nearly twice a month to meet with customers, partners and investors and falling more and more in love with the country on each trip. Our team was growing and everything for DimensionalMechanics was looking bright.
And then in February, everything came to a grinding halt.
In fact, it was all I could do to get on a flight within a narrow window before boarders were closed to stop the spread of COVID. You see, my wife is German and since I was traveling so much, we thought it made the most sense for her to move back to Germany to be closer to friends and family. I knew that the pandemic wasn’t going to go away anytime soon and I knew that if I was going to be stuck at home, I needed to be with my wife. So, after pleading with authorities, I made it to Germany, quarantined for 14 days and have been here since. No more traveling to Japan, no more team bonding, and maybe the most heartbreaking of all – no more IPO.
Some might say I’m an eternal optimist (to a fault), but I believe that through the course of the first half of 2020 and surviving a global pandemic, we as a team and company are better than ever. I’m thankful that my friends and family have been unharmed by this terrible virus. I’m amazed how quickly our team has adapted to the new virtual nature of work. I’m impressed that we are building even stronger relationships with our Japanese partners and customers despite the very in-person and personal nature that their culture is passionate about.
And though we are charting a new course, with a new name, I believe this new world that COVID has forced everyone into will bring new opportunities – though not without challenges and changes.
So, I thought I’d share some of my high-level thoughts about the future of artificial intelligence and tech in a post (perhaps permanent) COVID world:
- The surge in data science and machine learning (ML) will continue to push the cost of artificial intelligence (AI) upwards, leading to an ongoing search for technologies that democratize AI and more research into AutoML types of technologies
- A distributed workforce means that we are developing capabilities to allow easier access to people resources in other countries – this might moderate some of the excessive increases in salaries we are seeing, leading to more widespread development of advanced information technology solutions like AI
- The push for AI and automation will be stronger than ever before as companies seek to diversify their supply chains, manufacturing capabilities, workforce, etc. This tends to favor Asia as they are making a stronger push in this direction
- Many countries like Canada and some of the Asian countries have a more centralized push towards AI and this is working by greater risk taking and adoption giving them an advantage globally. There is no centralized push in the US aside from the military. This centralized push could come in the form of subsidies for data science programs, tax incentives for adoption, centers of excellence, etc.
- The growth of the surveillance state. COVID 19 has given governments more excuses for increased monitoring and tracking, which could lead to loss of civil liberties. AI will play an increasing importance in creating a 1984 type of society.
- Bio-informatics will continue to push forward. One of the challenges today is that AI and bio-informatics are still too immature and pharma companies are having to move to traditional methods for vaccines etc. There will be a push toward stronger adoption of bio-informatic systems (including AI) in these companies
- Vodafone has offered an app in their store so that the compute capabilities of phones can be utilized for working out problems associated with developing a vaccine for COVID or building models, etc. I think that there will be more opportunities to expand compute capabilities to leverage the incredible and underutilized compute capabilities of smartphones
- We are probably also going to see more widespread development of virtual communities. This could be an opportunity for VR or AR, which has seen a limited adoption so far. AI is a natural part of that as it plays a part in creating virtual environments and manipulating objects in virtual space.
What challenges, changes or opportunities do you think will arise in our new world? I’d love to hear from you.
I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.