Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: David Kenny

David Kenny, IBM Watson’s Chief and a scheduled keynote speaker at Viva Technology recently spoke to The Innovator about what executives should do to prepare for AI.

Which industries, in your view, are being transformed the most by AI right now?

— D.K.: All the retail businesses, the fields of law and banking, cyber security and healthcare.

How will the vast improvements in our ability to predict impact various businesses?

— D.K.: When you can predict something with much more precision you can change the economics of a field. You can change agriculture and everything around food supply and water management and you can do preventative maintenance of just about everything — maybe even our own bodies. AI gives us the ability to predict what will happen in the future and take preventative action. It makes us safer to be able to have a little peek into the future and will make us humans a little smarter.

AI is clearly going to have a big impact on all businesses eventually. What should executives be doing to prepare for the changes ahead?

— D.K.:We are at the point in AI that we were with the Internet in 1993 and mobile around 2003. We kind of knew this would be big but most companies did not have clarity and did not jump on it. They waited until the technology matured or they created digital departments and then found themselves scrambling to keep up. So I would say, view AI as something in the fabric of your company like electricity — like data flowing through your company in fundamental ways.

Is it a threat or an opportunity?

— D.K.: The digital and mobile disruptions largely favor distribution, so most of the real value is held by a handful of companies who have consolidated distribution. Everyone else pays taxes. To take advantage of AI we really encourage companies to maintain control of their data — their intellectual property — because the value is in using it to train the AI.

Don’t feed it to (an outside) platform that will serve as a distribution chokehold. Your content is training your own version of your own AI. Companies need to establish their data and knowledge strategy first — extending their own knowledge and not just turning it over to someone else. This is going to help make economies grow. If there is diversity in the AI model it will enable a more robust approach to a lot of problems.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.