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Experts address possibilities of artificial intelligence at UVU conference

By Nichole Whiteley - | Jun 16, 2023

Nichole Whiteley, Daily Herald

Rachel Bi, associate professor at Utah Valley University, speaks during the Silicon Slopes Artificial Intelligence Summit at UVU on Thursday, June 15, 2023.

As artificial intelligence has moved from science fiction to an everyday reality, people around the world have grappled with its capabilities and uses.

“I think in a couple of generations, we might start broaching on more of an immortal human,” said Dave Wright, CEO of Pattern.

Wright was one of several panelists Thursday at Utah Valley University for the first annual Silicon Slopes Artificial Intelligence Summit.

Joining Wright on the panel were Rachel Bi, UVU associate professor; Tyler Folkman, Benlabs chief technology officer; James Thornton, Tafi and Daz chairman and CEO; Wayne Vaught, UVU provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs; and Sean Reyes, Utah attorney general.

“It really is going to be our responsibility to teach the next generation and our children to be able to harness these powers,” said John Bowers, CBO & Partnerships Director at Silicon Slopes.

Nichole Whiteley, Daily Herald

People listen during the Silicon Slopes Artificial Intelligence Summit at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, June 15, 2023.

Wright acknowledged he may be wrong about the immeasurable possibilities of the technology, but is optimistic because of the advances AI is making in the medical field to analyze DNA and strengthen diagnosis accuracy.

Wright shared the story of his father and the three years it took to diagnose his rheumatoid arthritis. With advances of AI in the medical field, he believes similar diagnoses could be made in less than a day, not years.

Pattern is an e-commerce accelerator that leverages AI to more efficiently serve its customers, Wright said. During the conference, Wright showcased how Pattern used AI to create a 246-page fact sheet, social media suggestions, website for checkout, graphic designs, marketing video and more in 20 minutes — all in full view of the packed crowd.

He believes artificial intelligence will allow his company to charge less for its products. A frequent point of discussion and contention around artificial intelligence is around the impact it will have on the job market, potentially eliminating jobs people rely on.

“I don’t think AI will take your job, per se, but I do think that people leveraging AI will,” Wright said.

Nichole Whiteley, Daily Herald

Dave Wright, CEO & co-founder of Pattern, speaks during the Silicon Slopes Artificial Intelligence Summit at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, June 15, 2023.

He expects that an economic disparity will rise as people who know how to effectively use AI will rise economically above those who do not. While AI may replace some occupations, it will also generate more job opportunities, Wright said.

“AI is not about replacing us. It’s about augmenting our abilities. It’s more about freeing us from mundane tasks, so we can focus more on the work and life that make us truly human. It’s not a job killer; it’s a change maker, and our role is to adapt, learn and grow with it. So a world with AI is not something to fear but the future to shape,” Bi added.

She described AI as a field of computer science that generates an intelligence system aiming to perform tasks that a human could usually perform. The two categories of AI are narrow AI and general AI.

General AI can learn and perform tasks by replicating the cognitive abilities of human intelligence while narrow AI can accomplish designated tasks and function within a limited set of rules. Narrow AI systems — including smartphone voice assistants — can not learn or transfer new knowledge and skills to other domains.

The speakers acknowledged the dangers of AI, including concerns it causes law enforcement and possible job loss, but they believe uniformly that AI, when used correctly, has the power to propel society forward.

As the only elected official speaking at the summit, Reyes brought a different background to the discussion than other panelists. Having worked as general counsel to a technology company and venture capitalist, he compared AI to fire.

He explained that fire can be used to bring warmth and build civilizations, but it can also be used for destruction. AI could take down predators and rescue victims, he said, but gave a hypothetical risk — scam artists using an AI generation of the voice of somebody’s loved one telling the victim to wire money.

In response, Dallin Hatch, head of global communications at Pattern, said that instead of focusing on whether the fire — or “thing X” — is good or bad, it is better to “recognize it for what it is and teach people how to use it for good because the benefits clearly outweigh the harm.”

The balance of restricting AI use while allowing for the positive outcomes of AI came up regularly throughout the conference. Reyes worried of lawmakers incidentally stifling innovation while trying to “rein in” technology. That’s why he encouraged his fellow panelists in the business world and attendees to lead the way.

“You who are experts, you who are consumers of AI to make sure that the laws and policies passed, protect humanity but don’t destroy the positive applications of AI,” Reyes said.

Wright, meanwhile, said he leans away from systems that constrain because there are often unintentional consequences to the restrictions. When policies do need to be made on AI, he said the best way forward is to “force transparency,” creating the ethical side to AI.


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