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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Krista Sande-Kerback is Marketing Leader for OpenPages which is IBM’s platform for Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC).

Ep27. Krista Sande-Kerback: IBM & A.I.’s Promise

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Ep27. IBM & A.I.’s Promise: Why We Need Environmentally Responsible, Ethical, and Explainable A.I. with IBM’s Krista Sande-Kerback

On the latest episode of Creativity Squared, we explore A.I. in business, environmentally sustainable A.I., and the importance of diversity in A.I. governance. Plus, learn how you can get started with A.I. regardless of your tech skills. 

Krista Sande-Kerback is the Marketing Leader for OpenPages, which is IBM’s platform for Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC). She is working on the upcoming major launch of watsonx.governance. Watsonx is IBM’s recently announced generative A.I. platform that comes with a suite of tools for tuning large language models, a data store built on lakehouse architecture, and an A.I. governance toolkit aimed at mitigating risk associated with A.I. and protecting customers’ privacy.

Krista is a strategic advisor and marketing leader who has spent her career building and scaling marketing and transformation programs and providing critical insights to senior executives. She previously supported IBM’s acquisition of Brazilian RPA provider WDG Automation in 2020, and has conducted market intelligence research on the latest technology trends, trained dozens of teams in Agile methodologies, and scaled a startup.

Krista is an alumna of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School. A former Fulbright Scholar to Germany, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Fulbright Association’s New York Chapter. She is also a Council Officer for the Women in America professional development and mentoring organization, where she focuses on increasing the proportion of women in the C-suite, boardrooms, and other prominent leadership roles.

I want to educate as many women as I possibly can on generative A.I. There’s a problem with too much homogeneity among the core group of people that have been developing A.I. to date. I also believe that, if used correctly, A.I. has the power to close the gender gap.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

Krista discusses the enterprise applications for A.I., how she sees the technology affecting the labor market, how IBM is partnering with other agencies to develop novel A.I. use cases, and the importance of designing ethical A.I. governance systems. 

Benefits and Challenges of Enterprise A.I. Adoption

Much like digital-first has been the refrain for business over the past decade, Krista says that A.I.-first businesses will lead the pack over the next ten to twenty years. 

A.I. is no longer a business experiment. It’s for businesses large and small. It’s becoming an integral part of strategy.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

According to the 2023 AI Readiness Report by Scale Zeitgeist, over 80 percent of businesses are working with A.I. currently, or plan to adopt generative A.I. in the future. Goldman Sachs predicts that A.I. has the potential to raise global GDP by seven percent in ten years. 

Most of that additional economic value will come from significant gains in employee productivity. Harkening back to late nights as a business consultant spent stressing over the perfect Excel formula and building PowerPoint presentations, Krista sees A.I. being a business tool for employees to automate their most tedious and repetitive tasks. She sees promise for A.I. automation in areas such as finance and talent acquisition. She also thinks A.I. and robotics can help humans accomplish their work more safely, such as human-operated industrial inspector robot drones. 

“I’m not going to pretend that the previous discourse around robots taking our jobs has completely gone away, but it’s way way more nuanced than that.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

Krista says that there have always been concerns about new waves of technology eliminating jobs, but she acknowledges that this A.I. wave is unique because it will affect larger portions of workers in white-collar jobs. 

Yet, she says that there is a business need for entrusting more white-collar work to emerging A.I. jobs, as the global demand for talent is expected to increase faster than the supply. 

According to a study by international consulting firm, Korn Ferry, a global talent crisis could cost nations $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues due to an approximate 85 million jobs sitting vacant by 2030. For reference, $8.5 trillion is equivalent to the combined GDPs of Germany and Japan. 

Beyond the macroeconomic need for machines to handle more day-to-day work, Krista sees A.I. improving employees’ experience at work. She believes that A.I. assistance will free up more time for humans to think strategically. 

However, many businesses are still trying to figure out how to justify the cost of A.I. adoption. 

Historically, it’s been a mixed legacy. Fewer than a quarter of organizations have been able to achieve a return on investment for A.I. above the average cost of their capital. I think we’re going to see some real changes in those numbers, especially with the explosion of generative A.I.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

IBM is one of the companies trying to help businesses large and small make A.I. work to achieve their business goals…and bottom line.

From DeepBlue to watsonx: IBM’s contributions to A.I.

For many of us, seeing IBM’s Watson beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy in 2011 may have been our first time seeing artificial intelligence work in the real world. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the prior success of Watson’s precursor, DeepBlue, which showed the world the potential of machine intelligence for the first time in 1997 by defeating world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. 

Now that generative A.I. is capable of so much more than trivia and board games, IBM’s watsonx.ai platform is helping businesses develop their own A.I. models, fine-tuned on their own proprietary data. 

IBM showed off the potential of watsonx.ai this fall by partnering with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) to develop a specially-trained A.I. model that provided live audio commentary and captioned highlights of U.S. Open matches that didn’t make it to the big screen. USTA also used the platform to analyze individual players’ odds of advancing in the tournament and to score the competitiveness of different matches. 
As part of watsonx.ai, IBM developed and released their own foundation models (multimodal A.I. systems that can perform a variety of tasks without specific prior training), which they call the Granite model series.

“With A.I. for business, you want to think about it in the context of creating a competitive edge, scaling it and advancing trustworthy A.I. And this is where we, as IBM, are focused within this landscape.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

Granite models are trained specifically for business applications, built with special governance safeguards to prevent generation of harmful and profane content. However, IBM doesn’t limit their clients to only using foundation models developed by IBM. Businesses can choose from a selection of foundation models built for specific applications like coding, pattern recognition, and other areas. 

IBM says that their Granite models are more environmentally sustainable and financially practical than some competitors because the model can fit onto a single GPU. The company recently announced a prototype of a chip that it says works like the human brain, and which can run A.I. programs 25 times faster than existing commercial chips at 25 times greater energy efficiency. 
And IBM is also throwing their computational weight behind open source projects. Recently, IBM and NASA announced the release of a foundation model for geospatial analysis of live satellite imagery on the open source A.I. repository Hugging Face. The model is designed to facilitate research into deforestation and the effects of climate change on the planet.

Ethics by Design and A.I. Governance

In its quest to build practical A.I. systems for business, IBM is prioritizing the concept of explainable artificial intelligence. 

With their Granite models, IBM’s goal is to be able to trace each output back to one of the major datasets it uses to train the models. 

Krista says that many existing generative A.I. models have been rightly referred to as black boxes because of the difficulty (or impossibility with some models) to trace an output back through the countless decision points that the model goes through to provide the most relevant response. 

Krista sees explainable A.I. as a critical piece of demystifying A.I. for consumers, toward the goal of equitable A.I. adoption across communities. She says that if people can understand how the technology works, then they’re better able to trust the model’s output. That mission is critical for ensuring that the rising tide of A.I. lifts all boats, big and small, but also in helping break up the homogeneity of the people actually building A.I. systems. 

We need to be able to look inside these A.I. systems to understand the rationales behind the algorithmic outcomes. It’s about people and technology working together. But we actually have to educate consumers and provide a roadmap for deploying and utilizing this technology.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

In the same vein, IBM is also focusing on building A.I. responsibly. That’s why the company’s A.I. policies, practices, and research are overseen by an A.I. Ethics Board comprised of diverse stakeholders. IBM is getting ready to release watsonx.governance, which allows companies to direct, manage, and monitor their A.I. activities, and employs software automation to strengthen ability to mitigate risk, manage regulatory requirements, and address ethical concerns without the excessive costs of switching their data science platform. 

Krista says that governance and ethics are critical, especially for companies in highly-regulated industries. According to a survey conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, 88 percent of people believe that A.I. is the top tech candidate to address humanity’s greatest challenges, but the same proportion of people also want transparency around how data is used, how A.I. models are built, and how A.I. models arrive at a decision.

“Ethics by design” is a central tenet of the larger discussion around A.I. governance. Krista defines it as a structured framework with the goal of integrating tech ethics in the technology development pipeline. Ethical development enables A.I. to be a force for good by embedding principles through products, services, and operations. 

Unlike the thesis of The A.I. Dilemma, which argues that A.I. is advancing too quickly for humans to be able to manage it responsibly, Krista believes that the situation is much more nuanced. 
She says that we don’t need a universal pause on A.I. development (as suggested to the White House by a group of tech and policy leaders including Elon Musk), because we already have the frameworks to prioritize responsible artificial intelligence.

These systems are already in our control today, as are the solutions. With responsible training, together with an ethics by design approach, there’s a different way. You build that over the whole A.I. pipeline, you support it by multi-stakeholder, diverse collaboration around A.I, and that can make these systems better, not worse.”

Krista Sande-Kerback

Krista puts a big emphasis on the “diverse collaboration” component. She runs IBM’s partnership with Ellevate Network to prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace. IBM has also pledged to train 2 million A.I. learners (with a focus on underrepresented communities) by the end of 2026 through the company’s free online learning platform SkillsBuild

On that note, Krista says “there’s no better time to learn about and get your hands on A.I.” coming from a liberal arts background herself, she encourages anyone who’s interested in A.I., regardless of their background, to start getting involved with the technology today.

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Thank you, Krista, for being our guest on Creativity Squared. 

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

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