Retail Reflections

Optimism Is A Moral Choice

Optimism Is A Moral Choice

Optimism is a moral choice – those aren’t my words but the words of Chelsea Clinton speaking at IBM Think 2019, and they seemed to capture the mood of this year’s conference.

Back in December I published a Forbes article titled Artificial Intelligence: Saint Or Sinner? In it I concluded that “We may not have experienced the AI epiphany in retail just yet, however, we soon will; and when we do, retail will be changed forever”.

Well, in San Francisco last week I may not have quite experienced that epiphany but it felt closer than ever before.

Whether AI is the ‘new electricity’ or ‘penicillin for the 21st century’ (we heard them both) it is certainly not just traction but relevance at a rapid rate.

And whilst my ‘awakening’ might have to wait a little longer, the answer to the above question was firmly and unequivocably in favour of AI being a force for good.

There were some cautionary words, sagely advising us to tread carefully and not rush things but I for one could help but think, why would we drag our feet? Surely the benefits of an AI enabled world are far too great and far outweigh any potential negative assertions?

In her opening address IBM CEO Ginni Rometty was keen to share that this year’s conference represented the second chapter of development and I wouldn’t disagree.

It felt like AI was coming of age as I expressed in one of my tweets from the floor:

“Take some blockchain, add a little IoT, layer it with some cloud, sprinkle with some date and then add a soupcon of AI, et voila, you have super power right there”

But rather than being a technologists paradise, what became abundantly clear was the human nature of all of this.

AI for the sake of AI means nothing; AI to augment and enhance and make our lives better, more fulfilling, is an entirely different prospect.

And it was this which was perhaps the most powerful lesson from IBM Think 2019; that AI, if used appropriately and responsibly can be a force for good in society.

As Chelsea Clinton said, ‘optimism is a moral choice’, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

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