AI or marketing hype? (My first lunch and learn at work)

(Names covered up to protect the privacy of my coworkers).

The first talk, in 3 partsMy goal for the first session was to set the stage for what’s to come next.

I split the talk into 3 parts:The story of the Godfather of AI, Geoffrey Hinton, his relation to Toronto, and why everyone should know who he is and be proud to be living in such a great technology hub.

A walk-through of the definitions of data science, machine learning, in an attempt to recreate the process I went through when I was first trying to wrap my head around all these terms.

This is where the “AI or marketing hype?” part came in.

Why we should all care.

I used an example borrowed from a talk I went to by a venture capitalist: In the 90s, companies wondered how to build their internet strategy.

In the 2000s, having an internet strategy was a given, but the next big question was how to build a mobile strategy.

Now in the 2010s, the question isn’t about an internet or mobile strategy, those are a given.

The question is how to harness AI.

AI is going to go the way of internet and mobile- it’ll be integrated into all businesses.

In the future, every company will be an AI company, in some respect.

So even if you don’t care about AI, you’ll have to care.

AI or marketing hype?I was nervous about this part of the talk.

I wanted to get a discussion going, and make a point that the term “artificial intelligence” means different things depending on who you’re talking to.

A computer scientist would give a very different answer than a non-technical marketing manager.

And there’s nothing wrong with that!This “game” was supposed to be controversial.

Supposed to be.

It ended up being very… uncontroversial.

But still fun.

The game was as follows.

I’d show the audience different images of products that could be viewed as either “AI” or “marketing hype,” depending on who you’re talking to.

I’d stand there, and let them discuss among themselves, and wait for their answer: was it AI or marketing hype?Here’s some examples of what I showed my coworkers, along with their responses:1.

Old school Amazon product recommendations.

Source: mageplaza.


Audience’s answer: marketing hype.

(Same as my answer).


Autonomous vehicles.

Source: phys.


Audience’s answer: marketing hype.

(Not the same as my answer).


Roomba (the vacuum cleaner that remembers the layout of your living room).

Audience’s answer: marketing hype.

Definitely marketing hype.

(Not my answer).


Google’s autocomplete/sentence suggestion.

Audience’s answer: AI (after some discussion).

(Not the same as my answer).


ChatbotsAudience’s answer: Marketing hype.

(My answer: it depends).

So what is AI?At the end of the game, I told the audience what sort of product I believe merits the term “AI.

” I told them that I think of AI as a machine learning driven system that interacts with the real world.

Self driving cars, Amazon’s drone delivery system, a Roomba, Hanson Robotic’s Sophia, I’d call all that AI.

Anything else I would call simply a machine learning driven product.

Interestingly, my audience didn’t agree with me.

The game was controversial, but not in the sense I was hoping for.

I was hoping the audience would disagree with each other, but really, they disagreed with me.

I was the one standing up there saying “AI exists!” while they were there unanimously saying “there’s no such thing as AI.

” I guess that’s the perspective of a (front end/back end) developer.

The non-technical audience members either stayed quiet, or seemed to agree with their coworkers.

And I agree with them too, but I also think that the term has changed a lot over the years.

What it meant five years ago probably isn’t the same as what it’ll mean in another five years.

The field is changing fast.

Parting thoughts: I think I did well!I was surprised by several things:People actually showed up.

Mostly those in technical roles, but a few senior people as well.

There was a seemingly unanimous response that AI is just hype, and a marketing term, and that AI does not exist, and cannot exist.

The fear of math during the presentation (I showed them a picture of a computational graph showing back propagation), but the hunger for more math a few days after.

The interaction of the audience, with me and with themselves, and the laughing.

I always try to get the audience to laugh when I present!Everyone was interested and engaged from the start of the talk.

People really do have an interest in data science.

The fatigue it would bring.

I haven’t had to present like that since I graduated from my Master’s program (about 18 months ago).

I forgot how much fun but tiring speaking can be.

Run a lunch and learn!.It’s fun!I highly recommend every data scientist consider running a lunch and learn session at their company.

It’s the perfect selfish and selfless act; a continuous learning and knowledge sharing opportunity on both ends.

You get to practice public speaking, improve your communication skills, teach your coworkers, and share some laughs.

Most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

Originally published on my personal site: serena.



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