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Artificial Intelligence: Emerging from the Dense Digital Fog

The following excerpt is based on the book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today, available at fine booksellers from John Hunt Publishers.

Futurist Roy Amara says that “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” This book offers a solid perspective on where we are today with Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Privacy, and the Internet of Things, as well as a near-magical crystal ball into what tomorrow holds. We spoke with thought leader Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer about what this future means for us all in our new book, Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.

With AI looming ahead, we may even have to redefine what work is. Man is no longer the scale, the ruler, the canon.

Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer of Project Consult
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Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer is the Managing Director of Project Consult in Hamburg, Germany, and a renowned expert on digital transformations, business intelligence, and enterprise content management. He holds a master’s in archaeology and completed his Ph.D. in prehistory at the University of Göttingen.

Q: Ulrich, you write and teach about cultural and social changes in work environments that are a direct result of the emergence of digital transformations now that data is at everyone’s fingertips. What change has the business world experienced?

A: The pace of digital transformation accelerates day by day. Cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, IoT, and other developments are happening so fast that there is a danger they’ll get out of control. The mightier AI becomes, the larger the danger that it gets uncontrollable.

Consider Shoshana Zuboff, one of the first tenured women at Harvard Business School, and her three laws:

  • Everything that can be automated will be automated.
  • Everything that can be informated will be informated.
  • Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.

Neither our businesses nor society is currently prepared for those changes. Just have a look at the General Data Protection Regulation discussions on data protection as a general necessity, data safety as the requirement for continuity, data privacy by default, information governance to keep control, keep the value, keep information accessible, and so forth. These are basic requirements that should not be ignored like in the past. Future historians will call our era the dark age of the early information society.

Q: You spent quite a bit of time at the Fraunhofer Institute, developing imaging systems and processes to support archaeological studies. Given that images provide so much of the fuel for artificial intelligence engines, do you envision some of our older legacy systems and indexes providing value to future AI efforts?

A: In the mid-eighties, I worked on pattern recognition, image processing, database systems, and expert systems for archaeologists and prehistorians. Today, taking a computer, drones, and sensor systems to an excavation is standard. The capabilities of software, hardware, and self-learning algorithms are far more sophisticated than in those days. But let’s consider so-called old-fashioned methods of organizing information. You mentioned the terms “legacy” and “indexes.” Metadata is not legacy. It is a question of quality, control, and governance.

Controlled metadata, vocabularies and taxonomies are of special value to big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Controlled data sets work as guide poles to train new technologies with high-quality information. This is useful for automated indexing when capturing information, when sharpening enterprise search for qualified results, and managing your repositories with compliance requirements. Especially when it comes to compliance, straightly organized high-quality information is an asset. But, AI will change the game as well in the near future. Currently, classification schemes and file plans are developed manually by academic rules. In the future, software will analyze all information and organize itself by protection guidelines, user models, processes, value, retention.

Q: This series of interviews with global leaders in fields like information technology, risk, and compliance seeks to find common values and themes in these disciplines across disparate cultures. I know that you are an advocate of standardization. Are there any commonalities in the projects and people you’ve worked with that you believe should be universal goals?

A: Standardization is a necessity. Everywhere. We do it with our language, our terms, our grammar to enable understanding. We do it with hardware so that it supports interfaces and operating systems. We do it with software so that it can interact with other software and systems. We do this with the retention rules for documents in our records management systems. Standardization is everywhere; that’s no question. The real question is, what has to be standardized and for which purpose? And is standardization something to prohibit innovation? Is standardization regarding streamlining and controlling data in opposition to the culture of a group of people or an organization?

The larger and more distributed an organization is, the harder the job of implementation of change and change culture. Old behavior, language barriers, time zones, cultural differences can sometimes make common values hard to define. Processes to keep values and make businesses run smoothly need, as well, a kind of standardization. This might all change in the future with artificial intelligence. Less work for humans means that human-driven use models and respect for human work will decrease. It’s a major social challenge because people often define their status through their work. So, this is a common thread in all projects. Who is to redefine processes, keep workers involved, try to help them overcome their fears of losing their jobs, and be responsible for implanting a new mindset for a new type of work environment? With AI looming ahead, we may even have to redefine what work is. Man is no longer the scale, the ruler, the canon.

Q: In being at the forefront of enterprise content management (ECM) and systems design, you learned plenty of lessons about development. We live in a far more regulated environment than existed 30 years ago. Our challenges today intersect with privacy and security. What are the types of risks and concerns you believe developers of content management systems should be thinking about when building the next Documentum, SharePoint, Alfresco, or Relativity?

A: There is no future for old dinosaur architectures and big enterprise solutions. Modern solutions have to care for every type and technical format of information available. The basic strategy for products is automation. Not only to get rid of human work and to speed it up but to improve quality control and establish new areas of business opportunity. Integration is still a major issue. We are no longer talking about traditional records management systems for records managers but the integration of ECM functionality into other software. Interfacing and application programming interfaces (APIs) are crucial. And like the world of mobile apps, we will see services come up, which integrate and configure automatically into other environments.

Complex systems will only be manageable by AI-based administration software. So not only end-user relevant processes will be transformed but also the configuration, administration, and management of these solutions. The IT services concept will make sure that ECM functionality is available in the same way as Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and on-premise. A change will be that end-users no longer see an ECM client because the functionality is integrated into the standard desktop environment. ECM loses visibility on the desktop and becomes standard infrastructure. All of these developments change the paradigm of the traditional ECM software architecture and functionality. They require new dev-ops, new development tools, listening to the user, faster testing and roll-out, easier configuration, pre-configured business solutions, and easy to use end-user interfaces. It’s a big challenge for all companies developing any type of software.

Q: There has been a lot of noise around the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR), specifically the “right to be forgotten” and stringent privacy and data retention safeguards, but we haven’t seen much intellectual discussion around the broader social benefits the law intends to support. How do you see this “return to privacy” improving society when it seems that much of the younger generation not only dismiss the value of privacy but, as Simon Sinek has noted, see themselves through the lens of the over-sharing social media community?

A: The GDPR has been in place for some time and is only now being enforced. It is not a return to privacy. Privacy requirements and regulations always have been here. But nobody really cared. We were careless with information and information sharing. And now we are complaining that internet giants are using our data. The new quality of the GDPR is twofold: on the one hand, it is for all of Europe and organizations dealing with European personal data and transacting business in Europe. So, it intends to become a worldwide standard. On the other hand, it threatens high fines for infringement.

This is a tool for enforcement we missed in the past, and that’s why everybody started to care about it. But the other side is this, small businesses, associations, and others may come under threat of the GDPR. Where big companies can hire teams of lawyers and establish a data protection regiment, small businesses are overwhelmed by bureaucracy. Information management software is a necessary tool for larger companies to manage all data. They need the equivalent of a data map to identify what information is stored and it’s quality, value, and legal character plus how it is processed. Smaller businesses struggle with these requirements because of their size, larger business because of the complexity and the sheer amount of data involved.

The social communities have a different view on the requirements. On the one hand, they have to care more about privacy. They must be able to deliver reports where they store data and what they do with it. On the other hand, the GDPR strengthens them because small forums, blogs, communities, groups, and businesses give up on complying and move their communities to Facebook, LinkedIn, or somewhere else. Communities like Facebook even use the necessary declaration of agreement to implement new technology like face recognition, which inflicts directly with privacy.

Privacy by design and privacy by default will be significant concepts of the future information society. But in reality, people choose the lazy options, and we don’t invest serious efforts into the future of our information society. We leave this to science fiction authors and films, to CEOs of internet companies, and politicians. Privacy is not only about rights but obligations as well. These obligations tangle not only companies and public administrations. They apply to everybody of us, you and me.

Everybody has to take care of his own data and to respect the data privacy of all others. We cannot claim any right of being forgotten when we actively upload our directory of addresses to a social platform. In my opinion, data privacy and privacy rights is primarily a task for education, which has to start even before school. It is a task for developing a mindset about the value and the risks of information. Data Privacy has to begin in our heads.

Q: Predictive coding was introduced almost two decades ago, and while the technology has advanced, the barrier to adoption is still cost and complexity. Will advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning help make these tools accessible to smaller firms?

A: First of all, we have crossed the magic border of AI. AI is now not only self-learning and self-optimizing but like evolution, self-replication, and self-expanding. An example is the “Neural Network Quine.” AI software is programming AI software, and AI software is managing AI environments controlled by AI administration tools. Machine learning will be standard in this new virtual world. This AI is different from our traditional perception of intelligence. It goes its own ways, inventing different methods, and is becoming transparent to human perception and intellect. It is here, waiting around the corner. We see a big war being fought by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others for the leadership role.

Today, AI is even free for end-users or comes with consumer products. The longer it learns, the more sophisticated it will become. AI will become part of every piece of software. The future of IoT with billions of devices will only be manageable by AI. Yes, it will become part of every cloud offering and will reach smaller firms. The only delaying factor is legacy software, legacy management, legacy behavior, legacy business models.

The overlapping, entailing, reverse-causing, accelerating innovation processes will encompass everybody. This is why I mentioned that our old ideas of information-driven society with well-informed citizens having control over information and machines would become overturned by dystopian models of a science fiction nature. Predictive analytics with artificial intelligence will play a role in our fight to keep control because software and systems will naturally anticipate what we will be doing better. Complete industries will change. First, those who deal with information only, like banks or insurances. Then manufacturing and others will follow.

Q: Based on your years of experience as a practitioner, lecturer, and consultant, what sage advice can you offer to a young person just entering the field of information management and information technology?

A: Well, education on information management is lagging behind the technology and information revolution. Learn to think by yourself, learn languages, learn how to communicate, learn methodologies, learn philosophy, learn to adopt change, learn not to stop learning throughout your life! Study something which is of real interest to you, what you love, which gives you intellectual satisfaction.

To read more about incredible careers like Ulrich’s and change your life in the information age, buy the book today!