Last June, we published a piece about artificial intelligence written by Mike Colwell, the executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The piece was titled “How will Des Moines be a leader in artificial intelligence?” and aimed to spur our community to think about how we will adapt to the changes coming our way. 

He framed the piece by talking about past industrial revolutions, and the way those periods of change often led to many positives and opportunities. He suggests that AI and automation will be the fourth industrial revolution, and that “in the next three to seven years, we should expect to see significant disruption in Des Moines.”

Colwell suggested that we shouldn’t bury our heads and pretend AI isn’t happening, and that instead of trying to be a leader in developing AI technology, we should become experts in the implementation of AI. 

“We in Des Moines can carve out a significant portion of this implementation opportunity, but we must start now,” Colwell said. “This starts with learning about AI, not only from a technical standpoint but from an implementation, use and societal standpoint.”

This Power Breakfast is our attempt to explore that topic and continue the conversation that he started. Colwell had a prior obligation on the date of our event, but the influence of his piece will be felt at the event on Feb. 28. I know our fantastic group of panelists will be able to help us all as we prepare for the fourth industrial revolution and understand how Des Moines and our business community can best position themselves to use AI to augment our community, businesses and workforce. I hope to see you there.

Event Details:
Wednesday, Feb. 28
7 a.m. networking, 7:30 to 9 a.m. program
Des Moines Embassy Club, 666 Grand Ave. 
Ruan Center, 34th floor
Register: businessrecord.com/events


We Asked: 
What is the most important thing that business leaders should know about the effects of the advancements in artificial intelligence implementation?

Stephen Baek, Machine learning expert, University of Iowa College of Engineering
I think many people get carried away from the essence of AI technology and start to think about sentient machines that are just going to understand things in the way that humans do and interact with us, like what is often described in sci-fi movies. I think that’s still far away from us, if not unachievable. Rather, AI algorithms will still be bounded by the problems we identify and the tasks we lay out and will produce outcomes only within the solution spaces we define. Think of them as like a fancy tool set newly added to your tool belt. That being said, it will still be us humans, not machines, who recognize business problems, formulate them in mathematical terms, and eventually connect the dots between the technology and business opportunities. I think it is critical to think hard about this fact if you’re interested in solving business problems using AI.

Tej Dhawan, Chief data officer, Principal Financial Group Inc.
The effects of AI’s resurgence will be felt first in the realm of automation of simple yet manual and repetitive tasks. Such tasks have become collar-blind and impact the workforce in all realms. Business leaders who invest in talent should evaluate their work and find where repetition can be delegated to a machine/bot. Simultaneously they need to invest in developing their human talent and ingenuity toward deeper cognitive and empathetic work. One of the greatest human strengths is our ability to be lifelong learners, which helps us not only avoid “technological unemployment” but continually deploy the brain – a computer whose strengths and abilities are still unknown and underutilized.

Linc Kroeger, Vanguard of Future Ready Iowa, Pillar Technology
Intelligence agents (IA) will be as effective as the data you give them. To realize the benefits of machine learning you first need a sound data strategy with the right data in the right format at the right time in the context for the IAs to achieve goals. IAs apply immediately what they learn.  Imagine 100 IAs in a company learning, sharing with each other, and systemically applying their increased awareness and knowledge to better achieve their individual and collective goals. Now imagine the 1,000 employees in that same company and the culture it will take for them to thrive. People will be as effective as their culture enables them. Culture takes years to shift.  Start permeating these four mindsets in your organization’s culture now: Innovation (starting with how to embrace IA technology to solve specific goals), data strategy (that will support the IAs to solve their specific goals), continuous learning (short iterative learning cycles coupled with individual driven learning where you could never hear the words “but no one sent me to training”), and an agile mindset (value driven with pivots based on learning).

Kerty Levy, President, KNLWorks
Companies are beta testing and implementing new AI applications all the time. Almost all of them have the potential to alter the types of work people are doing today. So what’s the big deal? The speed at which AI has been developing anticipates a time in the future, perhaps during a single year, when competitive forces will require businesses to use AI solutions to replace a significant number of people that are in roles that are repetitive and lack the need to interface with other people. Business leaders need to educate themselves, engage thought leaders, talk to their networks across the globe and in other industries and stay up to date on AI solutions to anticipate the types of jobs that will be required in the future. Then they need to prepare for the challenges of retraining a workforce to perform jobs that require skills they may never have had before.