Instructor: David Schuff, Section 003


AI in Health Care for the Better

Artificial Intelligence is becoming or is already a part of every industry that exists. It will only continue to expand further because it has proven benefits with businesses and consumers. Health care is one of the many industries that AI has impacted. According to Accenture Research, their data predicts from 2018 to 2022, employment in health care will increase by 15% and revenues by 49%. This will be due to the greater interaction between humans and machines. Specifically in health care, AI has brought unique capabilities to the industry. AI now has the capability to identify breast cancer cells with greater precision, increasing accuracy from 96% to 99.5%. Also, with elder care, robots are now reminding patients to take medication and lead them through physical and cognitive exercises. And lastly, there are AI technology that provide greater precision with surgeries. Surgeons are able to sit at a console and nudge the joystick which controls the robotic arms. This eliminates the possibility of human jitters and involuntary tremors. These are a few of the many ways machines are advancing in health care industries. At the pace where AI advancement is growing, will this continue to be proven beneficial or will it come to a point where it becomes extreme?



Disruptive Innovation Meets Customer Service


Very few organizations provide consistently stellar customer service. Customers expect organizations to tend to their needs, and if the organization fails to do so, there is a chance that the customer will chose to instead spend money on a competing or substitute product. Some organizations have attempted to implement artificial intelligence in call centers as a way to reduce labor costs and streamline customer service processes. However, as many of us are far too familiar with, artificial intelligence in customer service hasn’t lived up to the hype. The first example that comes to my mind is Amtrak’s “Julie,” who fields all of Amtrak’s calls to get basic information before transferring customers over to an agent. There has not been a time where I haven’t had to read my six-character booking number to Julie at least five times before she finally understood all of the characters. I’m upset before the system even has the chance to transfer me to an agent. Amtrak’s Julie represents a traditionally reactive customer service model, where the customer reaches out to the company with an inquiry, and a support agent reacts to the inquiry. Salesforce & Cisco flipped the traditional customer service model upside-down, and recently partnered to help organizations use data to become more proactive when it comes to customer service. The two technology conglomerates bring together Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Cisco’s Contact Center to create a single agent desktop, where the agent is empowered to quickly handle every customer interaction with personalization and data-driven insights. All customer inquiries come through the Contact Center platform, where Service Cloud intelligence automatically classifies the case based on user history and trends. Contact Center then routes the call to the agent best equipped to tackle the case, along with recommended responses and rich details on the customer from all departments within the company. The more the agent uses the system, the smarter and more predictive it becomes, all benefiting the customer in the end of the day. By merging two major platforms in to a single desktop solution, Salesforce and Cisco bring new-market disruption to customer service. Has anybody experienced stellar customer service that somehow incorporated artificial intelligence? How else do you think artificial intelligence or tomorrow’s high tech could impact the future of customer service?

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AI Cardiologist Aces Its First Medical Exam

Rima Arnaout, an assistant professor and practicing cardiologist at UC San Francisco, created a neural network that outperformed human cardiologists in a task involving heart scans. She does not think the AI she created is ready to replace human cardiologists yet, but it was easily able to complete the first step in what a cardiologist does when evaluating an echocardiogram. The AI only performed this first step in the analysis of a heart image and the making of a diagnosis; however, Arnaout is now working to improve this technology so it can take the next steps to identify different diseases and heart problems. Experimental artificial intelligence systems are making rapid progress in the medical realm, so there could be major changes in the medical field in the near future. Despite the advances being made with AI in medicine, most people still want to see a human doctor when they have a health condition. Do you think we will ever get to a point where the majority of the population is comfortable being diagnosed by a machine and not a doctor? Will AI decrease job opportunities in the medical field in the near future?


Could AI be Transforming the Beauty Industry?

Consumer motivation trends in the beauty industry are shifting, and more than ever personalization is the key to modern day customer loyalty. Despite the millions of products on the market, the beauty industry overall has an utter lack of personalization, but artificial intelligence just might be able to change that. Companies are now starting to embrace the uniqueness of each customer, and creating personalized products designed specifically for the individual consumer. New technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, increase the level of personalization companies can achieve.

Earlier this month, the French cosmetics group L’Oréal announced its acquisition of the Canadian beauty tech company ModiFace. ModiFace is one of the biggest names in BeautyTech today, and has developed over 200 beauty apps for more than 80 brands. Such apps include cosmetics tryout apps and chatbots for Estee Lauder Cos., Smashbox, Allergan, and Coty; Clairol’s 3D hair color simulator; and Sephora’s ColorIQ and upcoming LipIQ technology. This acquisition will allow for L’Oréal to produce more digital services, such as tools to allow customers to test out various beauty products virtually, through augmented reality and artificial intelligence. More specifically, the company is looking to produce an app that would access the user’s camera, so they could try out makeup virtually and in real time. Throughout its existence,L’Oréal has acquired many cosmetics companies, but this would be the first tech company it has taken over. This type of acquisition from such a large player in the beauty industry has the potential to spark the digital acceleration of the industry as a whole.

A question I have is, in what other ways could technology be useful for the cosmetics industry? Is this the extent of it, or do machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies have the ability to truly transform the beauty industry?



AI Takes the Fashion Industry

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While it may seem strange, the fashion industry is predicted to be one of the next industries disrupted by artificial intelligence. The application Pureple offers many fashion-related services, including suggesting outfits based off of pictures that users submit of the clothes in their closet. Like Tinder, users can swipe left or right on outfits based off of their preferences. One current shortcoming of this application is its current “tedious upkeep” with submitting pictures. Many other platforms like Pureple exist, from Kim Kardashian-West’s Screenshop to Amazon’s Echo Look. Amazon has “developed an algorithm that learns about a particular style of fashion from images, and can then generate new items in similar styles from scratch”, and plans to incorporate this into the Echo Look application. What other future innovations could make this type of application more useful to users? Do you think that this type of application would be successful enough to turn users away from human designers and personal shoppers?


AI Replacing Human?

Artificial Intelligence have been growing rapidly in the past few years. AI was created to make life style, jobs, and daily tasks more simple to perform. In the past couple of years, people have researched and developed AI to the point where physical repeating jobs and some harder tasks can be done by AI alone. In addition businesses have also started to research and develop AI because they are cheaper and more efficient than human beings. This brings up a big problem. Will AI lay off thousands of people? Research have shown that AI in fact will kill many jobs. However, studies have also shown that more jobs will be created with different skill sets. According to Gartner by 2020 more jobs will be created by AI than the amount of jobs they are replacing. Do you think that it is ethical for all businesses to apply AI when not everyone has the skill sets for the jobs that are being created? Will AI ever get to a point where it will take over more industries?

AI Developers Can Learn From Mickey Mouse

When discussing AI, many focus on the incredible suite of functionalities that the technology can bring to the table to make our lives easier, such as the capabilities in personal assistants and self-driving cars. However, in order for these functions to take place and provide the most utility to human users, the AI behind it needs to be built to learn and execute its functionalities in a way that aligns with human end user success metrics and standards. This is where the concept of AI alignment comes into play. AI alignment is the study and practice of building out AI utility functions to be in line with our own. This practice requires the designer to establish a detailed point system that assigns points based on the positive or negative utility that the human end users realizes based on the outcome of specific actions. If there is too little detail, then negative outcomes can come about.

A simplistic example of AI misalignment can be seen in Disney’s Fantasia, where Mickey Mouse brings to life a broom and orders it fill up a cauldron. There was not sufficient detail inputted in aligning the broom to this task and it ends up flooding the room. The utility function in this case can be summarized as “If cauldron is full = 1 point, If cauldron is empty = 0 points”. Now, if we were to apply AI alignment principals to this situation, the function would include more details to align the intelligent agent’s values with that of the end user such as “If room floods =  -10 points, If someone dies in the pursuit or result of this task = -1,000 points, If task can be completed in 10 minutes = +0.2 points, etc”. By adding additional nuance, the AI is able to complete the task as intended by the end user without leaving room for unintended consequences.

What are some other examples of proper or improper AI alignment in technology today? How can integrative thinking be applied to AI alignment? How do differing cultures impact deriving end user utility?

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Airbnb’s next disruption? The airline industry.

Recently, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky hinted at the company’s plans to establish an airline and enter the “end-to-end” trip business. Currently, Airbnb uses an online platform to connect people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations. Airbnb creating an airline would likely cause a great disruption in the aviation industry. By establishing an airline, Airbnb would become an online travel hub and expand their services. According to reports, Airbnb has been building a flight booking system since December 2016.

Ten years ago Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry with their innovative accommodations platform, which is now the largest in the world. Now, Airbnb offers the ability to book tourist experiences and business travel accommodations. The addition of an airline would further expand Airbnb’s reach within the travel industry. Airbnb’s strategy to build a one-stop shopping for travel seems similar to Amazon’s strategy. Unlike other one-stop shop travel websites, however, Airbnb would create their own airline. Airbnb has a similar valuation as the major U.S. air carriers, but unlike the major legacy airlines, is a private company.

What do you think of Airbnb’s strategy to become a one-stop shop for travel?

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Uber’s Unsustainable Business Model May Be Banking on A.I.

Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft were so disruptive in nature and changed consumer behavior to such an extent that a new type of “sharing economy” seems to have formed around them and similar applications. The key features of the applications are their affordability and the access provided to this type of “on-demand transportation” that essentially became democratized. Despite the widespread use of these apps, their business models may prove unsustainable. According to the BloombergView, “Eighty percent of [Uber’s] $9.7 billion in quarterly revenue was eaten up by a combination of driver payouts and bonuses, along with discounts to riders. Toss in insurance costs, and you’re up to 90 percent—and that’s before spending on marketing, research and development, overhead and so on”. Without the aid of venture capitalists, Uber will be in huge financial distress in the future. However, the firm does not operate as one that is concerned about future financial uncertainties. In fact, Uber is one of the many firms conducting research on and testing autonomous vehicles. Could this be its long-term strategy that will make its business model viable? Will the firm be able to weather these challenges long enough to see its investments in A.I. pay off?

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Be more like Tesla

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Soon cars like Ford F-150 can be fully electric and compete with their own gas and diesel counterparts according to Wall Street Journal. Ford is planning to invest $11 billion dollars in electric car development to grab some of the customers from Tesla. This initiative is part of a $70 billion investment by major car manufacturers like Porsche, Jaguar, and Toyota. While current interest from American consumers is low, it has grown over 1000% since 2011. To relate this to what we learned, Ford is trying to serve undershot customers to whom existing products are not enough. While Tesla models and other manufacturers have a reasonably good market offering, their models are too expensive when compared to their gas counterparts. Additionally, Tesla’s and GM products don’t serve the same needs for customers like a Ford electric truck would. While Ford does not create a disruptive innovation, it could change the electric marketplace by driving the prices of electric cars down by offering a greater variety of electric cars. Do you think there are any potential innovations in the electric car market? What advantages do you think Ford has over Tesla or GM? Would you purchase an electric car in the future?


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Where and when do we meet?
Alter Hall 603
12:30-1:50 Tuesdays and Thursdays
Office Hours
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:00 PM