What I know about AI: Damu Winston​​​​​​​

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Ever since he first saw Star Trek as a child Damu Winston has had a lifelong fascination with futuristic technology.

The founder and CEO of Universal Linguistics (ULIQ), is an American expat in Dubai who arrived to the UAE in September 2015.

The startup enables users to connect with live interpreters and translators, who speak the desired foreign language the user wants to understand and speak.

The use cases include communicating with locals while traveling, ordering food at a restaurant or any other situation where a foreign language is needed.

After a tenure working at IBM on software automation in the US, Winston now embraces the AI era through his current work as a startup founder.

ULIQ will be going out of beta mode this summer and is currently focusing on piloting five languages out of more than 20 languages he hopes to have on the platform: Arabic, English, Hindi, Russian and Farsi. The 312 freelance translators now on ULIQ, which was founded in April 2016, are in over 30 countries, with the largest user base being in UAE, USA, India, and China.

Universal Linguistics founder and CEO Damu Winston at 1776 Dubai. (Image via Damu Winston)

AI comes in several shapes and forms. In the quest to understand what AI is, we must first define AI in its simplest form: software that writes its own software. What differentiates the types of AI is intelligence. The field of AI is commonly categorized as either ‘narrow AI’ (weak) or ‘general AI’ (strong). A narrow AI tool could be categorized as statistical learning systems, such are systems that understand human speech, translation between languages, facial recognition, or even self-driving cars. Because they are trained to achieve certain tasks, they are considered as not having genuine intelligence. General AI is the future though, they will have the ability to have a range of human cognitive abilities.

AI is big behind the scenes. Many AI researchers have categorized intelligence into a handful of meaningful dimensions, including perception, learning, abstraction, reasoning, planning and communication all integrated to achieve results. So, why should you care? Good question. While you may feel established, successful and secure in your current career today, if any of your work seems tedious, repetitive or cyclical, there is probably already a commercial AI solution that can do all of those tasks for you today and do it even better than you can.There are successful companies today that use AI bots to perform 80 percent of all work. On the bright side, someone built those bots. Companies like Medwhat and the Los Angeles-headquartered Fandango are already making a huge shift to using bots.

AI will allow us more creativity. We live in what is commonly referred to as the ‘information age’ where technological advancements seek to eliminate mundane tasks and increase human efficiency. Elon Musk recently spoke of a future where the practice of augmenting humans with machines will increasingly grow and the need for humans to become a multi-planetary species will become more of a mainstream idea, similar to how augmented reality and virtual reality have become mainstream. In a world where machines aid humans in every step of daily life, it could provide freedom for humans to be more exploratory and creative. It could fundamentally redefine how we live our lives. From a philosophical perspective, it could even revolutionize our perspective on the evolution of Earth’s species.

You can contribute to AI’s growth. Don’t imagine you’re going to reinvent the wheel, it’s all about open source. Both Google and Facebook are strong supporters of this and make a lot of their work freely available. However, this will require you to have some proficiency in programming with Octave/Matlab, Python, Euphoria, etcetera. IBM, Google, and Microsoft are also leading the industry in providing access to their AIs as a service. This approach obviously leverages their pre-built containers (services) and thus requires less technical proficiency. So you’re in with a chance.

Feature image via Damu Winston.

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