Finding the Way to AI: Where to Start

By Ben Dyer

With all the esoteric and high-profile issues of AI having taken center stage for the last couple of weeks, it’s time to pay some attention to the basics of introducing AI to your business. Even large enterprises are reported to be doing more talking than acting with respect to their announced AI initiatives. If you’ve learned enough about this subject to believe you can include this technology into your workflow and use it to increase your service levels and profits, exactly what should be your next steps?


As an aside, 60 Minutes aired a segment on December 3 about Quantum computing. IBM is beginning to install Quantum for medical research and solutions for other grand challenges. This profound advancement may be only six years away from broader usage, and it will make obsolete current computing machinery. The two-dimensional silicon transistors of today will be replaced by infinitely dimensional components that increase computing speed by many orders of magnitude. Wherever AI takes you today, adding Quantum to the mix will get you there in a blink when that time comes.  In 2022, I spent some time visiting a pioneering Quantum startup in Austin that already had years under its belt and for me made a convincing case that IBM and the tech giants aren’t the sole keepers of this journey.


What is immediately relevant to you is that your planning horizon should take into account that today’s starting points should assume Artificial General Intelligence coming along in a year or two and Quantum following not that far behind. If you are a visionary leader and not planning to retire in this decade, you should be vigilant in anticipating what’s next. You’ll gain considerable advantage over your competitors. We just passed the first anniversary of ChatGPT, and 2024 brings us celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Internet. The time interval between celebration milestones will be dramatically condensed. Be ready.


Back to the moment, we’ve all got to start somewhere in this process. The demand for AI engineers far exceeds supply. The government and the private sector are in line for the best recruits, and salaries are rising to California heights everywhere for the stronger candidates. Even in a city like Atlanta the resources of Georgia Tech, Emory University, the HBCU’s, and Georgia State close to the city center plus fine institutions that have blossomed all around the metro area don’t translate to hiring an AI expert like you would hire a “traditional” software engineer. Try running a job search on LinkedIn for an “artificial intelligence engineer” and look at the listings for openings across the US. The competition for talent is fierce and is not local. The bottom line is that if you don’t already have in house a qualified AI developer with an educational or work history in software, finding such a person or persons to implement your vision will be top priority. The larger enterprises where I have relationships have generally done a good job anticipating that and have populated their AI teams rather well. Their CTOs are geared up to implement AI projects internally, in part due to data protection reasons. You may be in a position with your company to follow that pattern; if not, the human resources become even more critical parts of your agenda.


What about hiring a consultant, a foundry, or any sort of work-for-hire development shop to build dreams to your specifications? The ones I’ve met are few and far between and mostly seem to have plugged into corporate America for high-quality clients. They too are in demand and are priced accordingly. You may have to source one from a tech center from NY, the West Coast, or Austin.


This may all seem to be daunting, but, if you believe in the power of AI and want to remain competitive for customers and talent, this is just part of the task ahead. As they say, AI is not going to take your job or your company, but a competitor with AI in the tool kit will do the taking. As I have written before, AI has rapidly evolved from the stage of tinkering to the moment of being hard-nosed ROI business.


More on this topic will follow.

And comments are always welcome. Message me in the Finding the Way Community



Here’s some relevant reading for the week. If you are an “accelerant” or a “doomer,” it’s instructive to read all opinions.


(My apologies if a paywall stops you on the NYT or WSJ links, but they are worthy reading if you can access them.)


Ben Dyer is best known as the founding CEO of Peachtree Software and has been responsible for numerous startups in both Atlanta and Austin ranging from technology to financial services. He is currently an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the ATDC at Georgia Tech and spent 7 years in starting in 2011 in similar roles at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a prolific writer and has written many hundreds of blog posts on entrepreneurial topics. Among numerous honors, he is a member of the Georgia Technology Hall of Fame.

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