Manoj Saxena talks Artificial Intelligence with Gigaom

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Manoj Saxena is the executive chairman of CognitiveScale and a founding managing director of The Entrepreneurs’ Fund IV (TEF), a $100m seed fund focused exclusively on the cognitive computing space.

Saxena is also the chairman of Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio branch and Chairman, SparkCognition an Austin based cognitive security and safety analytics company.

Prior to joining TEF, Saxena was general manager, IBM Watson, where his team built the world’s first cognitive systems in healthcare, financial services, and retail. Earlier he founded, built and sold two Austin based software startups.

Saxena will be speaking on the subject of artificial intelligence at Gigaom Change Leaders Summit in Austin, September 21-23rd. In anticipation of that, I caught up with him to ask a few questions about AI and it’s potential impact on the business world.


Byron Reese: How intelligent do you think a computer can become?

Manoj Saxena: I think they can become super intelligent. They already are. In certain areas, they have far exceeded human brain capacity. Now they are super intelligent, they are not super conscious. So I separate intelligence from awareness and consciousness. So I think intelligence is here, has been here for decades. And you know with the advent of cheaper computing power in the cloud and more access to cloud through mobile, I think that intelligence is going to get more and more pervasive and will basically be woven into all aspects of our life. You know, how we work, how we live and how we play is all going to be changed through computer intelligence surrounding us. I actually talked about this notion of as a species Homo Sapiens are dead. Homo Digitus is the future because we will be surrounded by intelligence and amplified and augmented by intelligence.

Do you believe that in AGI, general intelligence is possible to build?
I think it is possible but we are probably at least 40 or 50 years away from it. You know artificial general intelligence which essentially you could argue that you know parts of it. Google, you could argue as the beginning of an AGI kind of like a mega brain or Watson in certain domain is the beginning of an AGI but through AGI covering all forms of human knowledge and human pursuits, I’ve read a study on it that even if you ask the specialist in the AI field, the average response was that we are looking at 2050 or 2060 by the time we will attain AGI. I think the most exciting part is not AGI but ASI, Artificial Specific Intelligence.

How so?
Well I think a little bit of AI can go a long way. There were few big revelations when I was running IBM Watson. First, you don’t need to build an AGI to drive humanity forward or to transform businesses. A little bit of AI when applied to targeted consumer engagement or industry specific business processes can have exponentially huge impact. The second insight I had when I was running Watson is, the real interesting part about AI and machine intelligence is not asking the question of a machine, but it’s the machine telling you what question to ask. You know there is three types of information in this world: there is stuff you know, there is stuff you know you don’t know, and there is stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. The real interesting part of machine intelligence is the third bucket where the machine taps you on the shoulder and says, hey you got to check this out.

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