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Who's In This Podcast
Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Steve Dong is the Founder & CEO of CybrCastle, a firm in the Creativity Squared trusted partner network dedicated to responsible, secure, and human-centered A.I. consulting and development that delivers meaningful results.

Ep55. Steve Dong: Ready for A.I.?

Ep55. Ready for A.I.? Futureproof Your Business for the New Economy with Secure AI by CybrCastle’s Founder & CEO Steve Dong

Many business leaders have reached out to me about how to confidently navigate A.I. and stay ahead of the curve in this fast-paced landscape. That’s why in addition to this podcast, I’m building a trusted partner network dedicated to responsible, secure, and human-centered A.I. consulting and development that delivers meaningful results.

CybrCastle is part of my trusted partner network and I’m excited to have Steve Dong on the show to discuss how we help clients accelerate with A.I. and mitigate the risks to achieve their business goals. Interested in becoming A.I. ready? Reach out today!

Today, you’ll meet Steve and hear about Responsible A.I. development with a focus on community and people-centered approaches. Steve shares insights on how small and midsized businesses can leverage A.I. to compete with larger tech companies. He also shares strategies for A.I. adoption, risk mitigation, and change management for business leaders.

The conversation covers A.I. readiness assessments, use cases across various industries, and the development of secure A.I. solutions for middle-market businesses. Steve discusses ROI considerations, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful implementation and cultural alignment.

Throughout the discussion, Steve emphasizes that A.I. should enhance human capabilities rather than replace them, and highlights the need for values alignment in A.I. projects. We also explore Cincinnati’s growing role as a Responsible A.I. hub and the importance of community building in shaping the future of A.I. to amplify the best of human potential.

How can A.I. give power back to the people? Listen in and keep reading to find out!

Meet Steve Dong

Passionate about people and purpose-driven work, Steve is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of CybrCastle, where he’s at the forefront of helping mid-market organizations become A.I.-ready safely, securely, and responsibly. With an impressive track record of leading nine for-profit and two non-profit organizations, Steve’s superpowers include change management, executive governance, strategic development, and championing game-changing and world-changing innovations.

His journey from China to the United States some thirty years ago, including stops in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, has shaped his global outlook and entrepreneurial spirit.

I thought it was more a short-term assignment. I’m still here…started many entrepreneurial ventures both locally and in Silicon Valley, and also globally in China. But I…love this community.”

Steve Dong

One of the most exciting insights Steve shares is the unprecedented opportunity A.I. presents for small and mid-market businesses to compete with larger tech companies. Unlike previous technological revolutions that favored those with vast resources, A.I.’s decentralized nature levels the playing field:

A.I. is a decentralized type of infrastructure. And anybody can adopt A.I. And that actually levels the playing field, from the technological and process standpoint, and that’s really exciting.”

Steve Dong

Steve points out that tools like ChatGPT can be easily downloaded and implemented by businesses of any size, allowing them to quickly boost productivity and efficiency without the need for extensive infrastructure investments. This democratization of A.I. technology opens up new avenues for innovation and competition across industries.

Responsible A.I. Development: A Community-Centered Approach

At the core of Steve’s philosophy is a commitment to responsible A.I. development that prioritizes community needs and human flourishing. He emphasizes the importance of building A.I. systems that enhance human capabilities rather than replace them:

Our goal is to view the community, view our ecosystem, and help this ecosystem to flourish and fly. Cincinnati, you have a uniqueness, in my opinion—instead of very Big Tech-centric it’s actually people-centric.”

Steve Dong

This people-centric approach is evident in CybrCastle’s focus on governance, human interaction, and secure technology development. By prioritizing the needs of the community and fostering an ecosystem where A.I. supports human potential, Steve envisions a future where technology serves as a tool for collective growth and innovation.

As A.I. systems become more prevalent, concerns about privacy, security, and ethical use have rightfully come to the forefront. Steve addresses these concerns head-on with CybrCastle’s “governance-first” framework:

Most chatbots are people-pleasers. And because they are trying to please us, they want to generate things [that] actually may or may not be true.”

Steve Dong

To mitigate these risks, Steve advocates for a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Training chatbots not to be people-pleasers to reduce the likelihood of hallucinations or false information.
  2. Implementing human-in-the-loop processes to double-check A.I. outputs.
  3. Focusing on human-centric A.I. development that supports rather than replaces human decision-making.

This approach ensures that A.I. systems are developed and deployed responsibly, with built-in safeguards against potential misuse or unintended consequences.

Change Management: The Key to Successful A.I. Adoption

Perhaps one of the most valuable insights Steve offers is the critical role of change management in successful A.I. implementation. Drawing on his extensive experience in starting and leading multiple businesses, Steve emphasizes that change is constant and necessary for strategic competitiveness:

“Change is really what most business leaders are equipped to do. Using A.I. as a twin-turbo charge to change is really what we pivot on. A.I. is a tool, is a technology. But using A.I. to change can actually create probably the highest ROI.”

Steve Dong

Steve outlines a strategic approach to change management that starts at the top of the organization, with leaders developing a clear vision for how A.I. can support their strategic objectives. This top-down approach ensures that A.I. initiatives are aligned with the company’s overall goals and values, rather than being implemented as isolated technology projects.

To help organizations navigate the complexities of A.I. adoption, Steve introduces the concept of an A.I. readiness assessment. This comprehensive evaluation looks at multiple factors:

  1. Data readiness
  2. Cybersecurity and privacy preparedness
  3. Employee readiness and potential resistance
  4. Leadership and change management processes

“Think of the A.I. readiness assessment as like doing an annual physical, when you go to a doctor’s office. If you want to run a marathon…you’ll probably want to do a physical first.”

Steve Dong

This methodical approach allows organizations to identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop a tailored A.I. implementation strategy, and ensure that they’re setting themselves up for success from the outset.

Throughout the conversation, Steve shares several compelling use cases that illustrate the practical applications of A.I. across various industries:

  1. HR Process Automation: Streamlining onboarding, performance evaluations, and employee engagement through A.I.-powered chatbots.
  2. Predictive Maintenance: Using machine learning and computer vision to predict when manufacturing equipment needs maintenance, reducing downtime and costs.
  3. Fleet Management: Optimizing logistics and supply chain operations through A.I.-driven tracking and coordination.
  4. Architectural Design: Leveraging A.I. to digitize and make accessible decades of architectural drawings and blueprints.

These examples demonstrate the versatility of A.I. in solving real-world business challenges and improving operational efficiency across diverse sectors.

Protecting Privacy, Enhancing Humans, and Building “Return-on-Purpose”

As organizations increasingly rely on A.I. systems, concerns about data privacy and intellectual property protection have become paramount. Steve addresses these concerns by introducing CybrCastle’s secure A.I. approach:

“We handle privacy, security for the people, to the people, with the people, helping people. That’s why. And that’s essentially how we can build together.”

Steve Dong

Key features of this secure A.I. approach include:

  1. Pre-training A.I. models in a secure cloud ecosystem
  2. Customizing pre-trained models for specific customer needs
  3. Offering flexible hosting options, including on-premises, public cloud, or CybrCastle’s private cloud
  4. Implementing tokenization for enhanced data control and privacy

This comprehensive approach to security and privacy sets CybrCastle apart in the A.I. consulting space, offering peace of mind to organizations concerned about protecting their sensitive information.

Throughout the conversation, Steve consistently emphasizes that A.I. should be viewed as a tool to enhance human capabilities, not replace them. This philosophy is evident in his approach to A.I. implementation and workforce development:

We can help your HR department to streamline the processes, to optimize the processes, so they can actually do more HR work, not clerical work.”

Steve Dong

By focusing on using A.I. to automate repetitive tasks and streamline processes, organizations can free up their employees to focus on more strategic, creative, and human-centric work. This approach not only improves efficiency but also leads to greater job satisfaction and professional growth.

When discussing the ROI of A.I. implementation, Steve takes a nuanced approach that considers both financial returns and broader societal impact. He introduces the concept of “return on purpose,” which focuses on community building, ecosystem development, and human flourishing:

“The return-on-purpose…is community building, ecosystem building, human thriving, human flourishing. I think those are really the things not only just for the workplace…for the society in general.”

Steve Dong

This holistic view of A.I.’s potential impact encourages organizations to think beyond immediate financial gains and consider how their A.I. initiatives can contribute to the greater good of their employees, communities, and society as a whole.


Building a Thriving A.I. Ecosystem in Cincinnati and Beyond

One of the most inspiring aspects of the conversation is the emphasis on community building and collaboration in the A.I. space. Steve highlights the vibrant A.I. ecosystem emerging in Cincinnati, praising initiatives like the CincyAI meetup and Cincy AI Week:

“Cincinnati is hot right now, the community is getting stronger by the day.”

Steve Dong

This collaborative approach to A.I. development and implementation stands in stark contrast to the often-siloed nature of tech innovation in larger hubs. By fostering a community-driven ecosystem, Cincinnati is positioning itself as a unique and attractive destination for responsible A.I. development.

As the conversation draws to a close, Steve offers several key pieces of advice for those looking to engage with A.I.:

  1. Embrace the future now: A.I. is not a passing fad, but a transformative technology that’s here to stay.
  2. Prioritize security and privacy in A.I. implementations.
  3. Engage with the community through meetups, events, and educational resources.
  4. For business leaders, explore how A.I. can supercharge your strategic objectives.
  5. Take small steps to learn about and engage with A.I., even if it’s just a brief conversation or exploration of available tools.

Steve Dong’s insights offer a compelling vision for the future of A.I.—one that’s rooted in community, focused on enhancing human potential, and committed to responsible development and implementation. As we stand on the cusp of a new economic era shaped by A.I., his message is clear: now is the time to engage, learn, and collaborate.

For business leaders, the path forward involves thoughtful assessment, strategic planning, and a commitment to using A.I. as a tool for positive change within their organizations and communities. For individuals, it’s about staying curious, engaging with local A.I. communities, and considering how these technologies might enhance their own work and lives.

As we navigate this brave new world of A.I., Steve’s people-centric, community-driven approach offers a refreshing and inspiring alternative to the often-impersonal world of big tech. By embracing these principles, we can work towards a future where A.I. truly serves to amplify the best of human potential, fostering innovation, creativity, and collective flourishing.

The A.I. revolution is upon us, and as Steve so eloquently puts it, it’s time to “embrace the future now.” By doing so with thoughtfulness, responsibility, and a focus on human values, we can shape an A.I.-driven future that benefits us all.

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Thank you, Steve, for joining us on this special episode of Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

Because it’s important to support artists, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates will go to ArtsWave, a nationally recognized non-profit that supports over 150 arts organizations, projects, and independent artists.

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