Team CallRail Recap: AI & Data Science at SXSW

In this series of three posts, we asked members of our product team to share their first-hand account of one of the world’s most prestigious and innovative technology conferences, SXSW.

My first experience at SXSW was insightful, exciting and filled with Texas BBQ! The conference sessions I attended primarily focused on AI, Machine Learning, and Behavioral Science. My mindset going in was that I was going to learn some new technology trends in those areas and be challenged to think in different ways. I hoped to be able to bring back some takeaways to improve how I perform my role and how to grow our Conversation Intelligence solutions at CallRail.

AI and Data Science are Here to Stay

My main takeaway throughout the entire week is this: AI and data science is not going anywhere and will be part of our lives personally and professionally for the foreseeable future. I say this because of the sheer amount of sessions that were centered around AI, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, and Behavioral Science (how the human brain makes decisions personally and as a consumer). There were always a lot of people in line for these types of sessions which was staggering. I found myself having to be in line 30-45 minutes early for every one of these sessions; there was no showing up at the start time and getting a seat!

Another key takeaway from SXSW is centered on how humans interact with AI systems. Currently, humans working in AI, building these systems (like chatbots), are trying to personally adapt their decisions, reasoning and behaviors to fit the AI system. Instead, we need to start building these systems to adapt to us. This means building AI to reason, behave, and make decisions in a similar manner than humans. Creating these types of AI systems will improve performance and accuracy, and also decrease the feelings of discomfort that individuals feel about handing over basic tasks to computers.

Computers are not going to rise up and take over the world like Terminator. Instead, companies like Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, and countless others are working to establish AI engines that can perform near-human decision making and conversation. Without these kinds of systems in existence, humans are not able to operate the way we want. There would be no Alexa, Google Home, Siri, contextually relevant news, etc.

Engaging with Computer Systems

In the next 10 years, we will see a massive growth in Natural Language Interfaces (chat-bots or voice recognition systems) and other Cognitive Computing Systems. Humans will be able to actually ask a question or build an idea with one of these systems and feel engaged, inspired, satisfied during the conversation, and after the conversation ends. Here’s a staggering number: Currently, there are 10 Exabytes (1 billion Gigabytes) of information put into the world daily. Our obsession with data is real and isn’t going anywhere and will grow exponentially over time.

Being able to attend SXSW was enriching for me personally and professionally. Seeing so many like-minded people in the same two square miles was insane and sometimes overwhelming. I feel that SXSW truly represents the focus of the current tech and creative industries, and is a great snapshot of what the future of the industry will look like. Again, as we continue to invest in AI, we need to stay focused on building AI systems that mimic how the human brain behaves, emotes and makes decisions.

“We are not thinking machines, we are feeling machines that think.” – Christopher Graves