Terence is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nexus FrontierTech and Associate Professor of Finance at the London campus of ESCP Europe Business School. Terence is also co-author of the book ¨Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using DRIVE to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends¨. The framework was nominated for the CK Prahalad Breakthrough Idea Award by Thinkers50, the most prestigious award in business thought leadership. The DRIVE framework has also led Chartered Management Institute’s own magazine Professional Manager in the UK to name Terence as one of the 18 new voices in 2018 that reshape management and leadership. Talent Quarterly in the US called the DRIVE framework one of the 24 trends transforming talent management in the years to come.
You have a strong background in higher education, having worked in various roles at top universities such as Cambridge Judge Business School and ESPC Europe. What was the idea behind co-founding an AI startup? Have you always been interested in tech and startups?
Like many things in our lives, co-founding Nexus was the result of coincidence. After I wrote the book “Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using Drive to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends” with Mark Exposito, I started to really appreciate what technologies can do and how they have embedded in our lives and are driving the future. A very strong interest in the latest technologies was developing. So, when Danny read an article I co-wrote with Mark on AI, he asked me to meet up as he was starting an outfit based on this technology in the UK. The result was Nexus FrontierTech.
What do you consider the biggest misconceptions both businesses and the general public have about AI?
Lots of people still don’t know what AI is truly capable of. At the moment, it cannot even identify whether the image it is looking at is a dog or a cat. All it can do is to try to figure out whether it’s a dog or not a dog. If what it can achieve is limited, it is for sure not what many media outlets portray it to be. Understanding this is a good start. Another misconception we see in businesses from our experience gained at Nexus FrontierTech, is that often the most difficult part of putting AI into operation is not the development of AI but rather customising it for the IT system of clients. There are quite a number of AI applications/product vendors out there in the market. But off-the-shelf solutions as such is not easy – and most of the time fail – to meet exactly what the clients are aiming to achieve.
AI is considered a buzzword by many. Do you think it’s merited?
Yes. It is a buzzword. But for the wrong reason. It is a common term that people tend to use to describe machines doing human work. But ultimately, there is no intelligence in AI. This is because intelligence implies creativity, problem solving, empathy, to name of few. And machines can do none of them. I personally prefer to use terms like natural language processing or image recognition. These terms are more precise in describing what machines can do, unlike an all-encompassing term like AI which can describe everything and nothing at the same time.
What are the biggest challenges AI firms are facing when proposing business solutions to potential clients?
It is often taking the first step. While some companies have never tried and don’t know that much about AI, they are reluctant to put the technology to use. Not to mention that for AI to fulfil its potential, it has to be customised. This often involves a great deal of work. Other times, we have also seen companies trying to deploy AI. Yet, they have spoken to the wrong vendors and the result is that they put the money in but are not getting the value out or the vendor could only go only as far as a proof of concept. Consequently, they become disappointed and take a more cautious approach when trying to deploy AI again. Needless to say, they should have talked to Nexus FrontierTech first to avoid such disappointments!
You have co-authored another book, ¨The AI Republic: Building the Nexus Between Humans and Intelligent Automation¨, alongside Nexus CEO Danny Goh and Chief Learning Officer Mark Esposito, PhD. Can you give some insight into what you touch upon and its connection to Nexus’ current mission of democratising AI?
We would like to demystify AI, fleshing out what it can and cannot really do. We also discuss how modern AI has gotten to where it is and explain some of the technical sides of the technology. Since AI has will have a huge impact on our world in the future, the book will also cover some ethical concerns of this technology.
Nexus’ wants to democratise AI. What does this mean to you?
I am going to use an analogy that Danny has used. Remember those days when we were first introduced to the Internet? Way back then, if you were to put a website together, you would have to do a great deal of programming. This was restricted to those who had the skills and equipment to do. These days, building a website requires very little programming knowledge because we can now drag and drop using specific applications. When we say our we want to democratise AI, what we want to do is offer an application. We hope that our Podder.ai platform will enable individual researchers/engineers to easily build AI products for their clients and make it easy for clients to accept and integrate 3rd party vendors’ AI offerings.