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AI is real and it’s here

A conversation with “Technology Evangelist” Brad Watkins

This has been a really interesting year watching the discussion of artificial intelligence advance due to the rise of ChatGPT and similar machine-learning tools that have permeated daily life and business. In order to learn more about the subject, I recently invited Brad Watkins, a self-described “technology evangelist” to our podcast, “In My Day.” Ryan and I had a fascinating hour-long discussion with him where he broke down what AI really is and how it’s going to affect our lives moving forward. I thought that, for this month’s newsletter, you’d like to read an excerpt from that conversation.

If you haven’t been listening to “In My Day,” I encourage you to check it out online or subscribe on your favorite podcast app, as well as our other podcast, “How to Win” with Rick and Kyrk.

I hope you enjoy this snippet of our chat.

Note: Some of this transcript has been edited for clarity.

Ryan: Let’s just start with, what is AI, Brad? If you were describing it to the general population, what’s a definition for us? 

Brad: AI is a technology that allows computers to do work that would normally take human intelligence. So it’s allowing computers to do things that we couldn’t let them do before.

It’s not tabulating a spreadsheet; it’s helping make decisions, recommendations, and things that historically have taken a human brain. We’re taking capabilities that have been uniquely human and we’re building a technology stack that allows us to do that at a different scale and pace.

Dave: So it’s not like these sci-fi movies where wetake all these humans and put ’em in like little cocoons and tap their brainwaves? We can actually do this with a computer instead of a human body now.

Brad: Correct. Correct. 

Dave: Well, hallelujah. That’s one of my biggest nightmares in life. Now we’re not gonna be abducted. 

Brad: We’re not gonna be plugging into the matrix. But you know, as you mentioned there are a lot of misconceptions about AI. With any new technology, people are fearful of change.

The adoption of the technology, the real-world uses, are tremendous. Now, with any technology, there is the potential for misuse. And could AI help the scam callers be better? Absolutely. And it will. And it is. But there are a whole lot of positive benefits that are gonna come from this. This is one of the most compelling technological advancements in my lifetime.

There have been a lot of cool technologies invented — everybody loves Uber and everybody thinks Teslas are cool and all that stuff. But this is gonna touch every single aspect of our life in a meaningful way. I think that what we will see is that the beneficial uses are gonna vastly outweigh any kind of abuses.

Ryan: My wife loves her plants. My living room looks like a jungle. And she is very okay at keeping them alive. I mean, she’s gotten better. One of the reasons that she’s gotten better at it is she had an app that used AI technology where basically she could scan the plant and it would use AI to figure out if it needs more water, it needs less water, it needs more sunlight and tells her exactly what a person that knows a lot about plants would tell her.

So that’s one of the things that I’ve seen. What are some things that you think in five, 10 years from now, could be a part of everyone’s life?

Brad: You said five to 10 years? Think three. 

Dave: Why is that?

Brad: The adoption of this technology is happening at a pace like nothing I’ve ever seen in the technology space before. There are potential use cases across every aspect of our lives. And it is such a competitive advantage for companies if they adopt it correctly; some companies will die because they don’t. Especially in established industries, if they don’t have the vision to see where it can apply to them, they will be beaten by the people that adopt it. That could be established businesses that adopt the technology, or that could be new upstarts.

If you’re part of a business, if you’re investing in a business, and they are not adopting this technology in a meaningful way, they will be at a disadvantage — and a significant one — in the market. So that’s making people run toward this.

This is just Brad — if I’m investing in a company and I can’t determine that they’re doing something meaningful in this space, I’m gonna have some questions about that. And I’m probably gonna look at their competition and see if they are adopting this technology. 

So you talked about your wife and taking care of plants. What you said was the app tells her what somebody that’s really good at this would do. My dad goes to the farmer’s market and talks to the lady that brings flowers to the farmer’s market, and she gives him tips on gardening. She’s taken a lifetime of knowledge and distilled that and shared that with my dad. That app is taking somebody’s body of knowledge, making sense of it, and giving your wife tips on how to better take care of plants. That is essentially, in my mind, what the really compelling part of AI is. 

Think about healthcare. You are diagnosed with cancer and you live in Phelps, Kentucky, in far eastern Kentucky. Wonderful people in that area, but the medical care that is available to them locally is maybe not as rich as the medical care available to somebody in Chicago.

Depending on where you are in our country or in the world, your access to medical care is a big deal. A lot of people travel to the Mayo Clinic. People come to UK’s Markey Cancer Center from all over to access treatment that otherwise wouldn’t be available. So what are they accessing? They’re accessing a person, a body of knowledge that is typically delivered by the people that have spent their careers becoming experts. So what AI does is allow us to build models that take that body of knowledge and make it smarter. 

Dave and I both take a blood pressure pill. We’re two different people. Our health profiles are vastly different. I mean, how tall are you? Six-foot-two, right? I’m 5’8”. We’re different, but we both take Lisinopril. The manufacturer had to find something that was effective for the vast majority of people, for the largest common denominator, and that’s how medicine’s built.

What we’re gonna see in the very near term is drug manufacturers will be able to give something that may be based on Lisinopril, but is tailored to Dave. So the blood pressure medicine is no longer built for the least common denominator. It’s built for you. And the one I would take is built for me — the chemical compounds will be adjusted so that they do better in my body based on my makeup than yours.

This isn‘t sci-fi, gonna happen in 50 years stuff. It’s gonna happen in the very near term.

To hear more of this conversation about artificial intelligence and other great episodes, listen to “In My Day.”

Brad Watkins and any mentioned companies are not affiliated with The O.N. Equity Sales Company or O.N. Investment Management Company.

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