Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Will AI Finally Bring About the Automation Revolution

Growing up during early ages of the tech evolution of the 80's and 90's all we heard was the concern that technology and automation was going displace jobs and replace workers. Faster forward a few decades later and what we see today is that technology has been used more as tool to accompany workers and increase their productivity rather than as a replacement. The same can largely be said about robotics and full-scale automation. 

With the rise of AI however, we are once again hearing the alarm bells sounded, with more people believing that AI will soon replate many workers and many jobs will be lost to this newest technology. So is the newest threat to jobs actually going to replace everyone or will we see the same happen that we have seen over the past 30-40 yrs with the technology being an accompaniment rather than an all out replacement?

AI vs. Previous Tech Waves: Is This Time Different?

The fear surrounding AI isn't unfounded. Unlike past technologies, AI systems are designed to learn and improve, potentially taking on tasks that were once considered the exclusive domain of human intelligence. This includes everything from writing creative content to analyzing complex data, even diagnosing medical conditions.

But it's crucial to remember that history often rhymes, if not repeats. When personal computers first hit the scene, many predicted mass unemployment for secretaries and typists. Yet, these roles evolved. Instead of simply typing, administrative assistants took on more complex tasks, leveraging technology to increase their efficiency. 

The Potential for Augmentation

A similar scenario may unfold with AI. Rather than replacing workers entirely, AI could augment their abilities. Imagine a doctor using AI to analyze medical scans, freeing up time for more patient interaction. Or a marketer using AI to generate initial drafts of content, leaving them to focus on strategy and refinement.

This shift towards augmentation could create new opportunities for workers who embrace AI as a tool. Those who adapt and learn to work alongside AI systems will likely find themselves in high demand.

The Challenge of Adaptation

Of course, this rosy picture of AI-powered augmentation isn't guaranteed. The transition will undoubtedly be disruptive, and some jobs may indeed disappear. The key is to focus on adaptability.  

Governments, businesses, and individuals need to invest in education and training to equip workers with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-powered world. This includes not just technical skills, but also critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity – the very skills that AI currently struggles to replicate.

A Cautious Optimism

The question of whether AI will usher in an automation revolution or simply augment the workforce is still up for debate.  However, by drawing lessons from the past and focusing on adaptation, we can navigate this new technological wave with cautious optimism.

AI has the potential to be a powerful tool for progress, not just a threat to jobs. By embracing its possibilities and preparing for its challenges, we can ensure that AI serves to enhance human potential, rather than diminish it.

In Conclusion...

The future of work in the age of AI is uncertain, but it's far from bleak. The alarm bells are ringing, but they may be a call to action rather than a death knell. By learning from history, investing in adaptation, and fostering a mindset of collaboration, we can shape a future where humans and AI work together to create a more prosperous and equitable world. 

**Note  Ironically portions of this post were edited and augmented with Google Gemini AI

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Are External AI Accelerators Coming Soon?

A couple years ago several companies introduced external GPUs. Portable boxes that held a top end GPU that could run the latest games on your small form factor PC or your otherwise under-equipped none gaming PC. They could be used on just about any PC to add in gaming or graphics  power without the need for a new build or major upgrade. With the need for today's computers to keep up with the draw of AI computing will we soon see add-on or scalable external AI Accelerator Box becoming the new thing?

The fundamentals of on-device AI computing are easy enough to understand. You put an NPU, AI ready GPU ect into a device and you are reasonably set. Most new laptops and desktops will come with these chip integrated. However, the need to add AI computing power to older machines, without a large scale upgrade, might be the next big draw. Much like add-on GPUs having a stand-alone AI Accelerator NPU might be a great solution.

Think of it this way, you own a PC or laptop that is a few years old and instead of buying something brand new you add on an external NPU or even GPU box the size of a standard portable hard drive. You instantly boost your computing power and/or graphics power. Now add to that you could potentially be running them in tandem and multiply your base computing power exponentially based on whatever configurations you have! You become your own distributed computing system running everything from one machine. You can then take those same devices and run the same level of computing from your laptop, work PC or possibly even your phone! 

Unlike a normal PC with an AI Accelerator Box you won't have to continuously upgrade. Rather you scale your computing power based on each new AI Box you add or swap out. Your base footprint would still be less than a single high end desktop, but with exponentially more compute power!

We do have a few solutions similar to what I'm suggesting today. ADLINK Tech has a portable NVIDIA RTX GPU and companies like Zotac still have their external GPUs. However, none of these offer the true scalability and raw AI processing power that I'm talking about. Eventually I believe well see some true standalone Intel or AMD based AI accelerator chips in external boxes setup for running as a daisy chained system.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

What Are AI PCs? A Brief Explanation

Before I start with the explanation below I'd like to say that I believe that AI (artificial intelligence) as we are defining it today is not what most people envision as true 'artificial intelligence.' I look at it more as an augmented intelligence, one that uses your own interactions and those of users like you to generate best case answers, images, videos ect. We've been using the same software, same search algorithms, same voice commands, same pretty much everything for several years now. We never called it AI before because of the marketing strategy. Today we are just now seeing the marketing hype behind those same tools that have been learning our habits for years (I won't get started on the privacy issues here).

AI PCs - Intel's New Marketing Term

To put this simply the term AI PC is an Intel derived marketing term that requires specific Intel hardware and standards to apply. This doesn't mean that other PCs or devices can't run AI or that they aren't AI ready or AI chip equipped. So don't be confused here! 

Intel has stated that for a PC to receive the coveted "AI" label, it needs four things: a neural processing unit (NPU), a graphics processing unit (GPU), and the ability to handle Vector Neural Network Instructions (VNNI) and DP4a instructions (so that the GPU can handle video processing)  In other words what Intel is saying is that in order for them to call a new computer an AI PC it must be one with their latest CPU.


What is AI Ready and AI equipped

When it comes to slapping the AI ready label on things these are the few small things to know. AI apps and tools are currently used in two different ways. The difference between the two and how you are using them is really the difference in hardware requirements and what is needed. Basically any PC, smartphone, tablet or device can access and use cloud based AI.  On device generative tools require much better, more efficient hardware and that is were some of the confusion starts for most people.

One of the easiest ways to explain the hardware is to say the modern CPU as most people know it has become extremely outdated. New software changes take advantage of and use the GPU and a new NPU (secondary chip) to do the heavy work. These are both considered AI accelerators, deep learning processor, or neural processing units (NPUs). They have been specifically designed to accelerate artificial intelligence and machine learning applications and algorithms. (More on the differences here)

Tools like ChatGPT, Google image generator Gemini, or Microsoft CoPilot are all cloud based and do all their work in a cloud based system. This allows EVERY device to utilize AI because all the work is done by other, much more powerful systems, that then send the results to your PC or phone. This will soon change however as Intel has confirmed CoPilot and other applications will soon run locally on PCs and require better hardware to do so. 

PCs meeting those requirements are already shipping and other devices like the Apple iPhone, Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy phones are already using secondary more AI specific NPU chips for on-device AI.

In conclusion - don't be confused or fooled!
I'm writing this post I'm really hoping to take some confusion out of buying or upgrading your systems and hope that people aren't fooled into think they have to run out and search only for an AI PC to run their newly hyped apps. Yes newer hardware will eventually be required, and yes it only makes sense to adopt that hardware if you are already upgrading. No, that doesn't mean you will be left out if you don't!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Will AI Monetization Stifle Innovation?

Nearly a full month into 2024, and it's evident that this year is poised to be the "Year of AI," with virtually every aspect of our lives touched by AI in some form or another. However, as we witness the rapid development and subsequent market integration of AI, potential drawbacks are emerging. The two most significant hurdles seem to originate directly from tech giants.

AI Consolidation

Towards the end of 2023, major tech players such as Amazon, NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Google made significant moves to expand their AI portfolios, consolidating smaller companies under the umbrella of their massive enterprises. For instance, Amazon invested $4 billion in the startup Anthropic, while Google secured a $2 billion stake of its own. While these moves provide startups with the capital needed for growth, they often result in the acquiring companies exerting too much control over the projects, hindering their progress.

The desire to quickly monetize and grow a company, followed by potentially selling off the team's hard work, often leads to issues down the road. Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google tend to absorb acquired ideas and software, which may either get shelved, completely reimagined, or fall by the wayside as companies explore other, potentially more cost-effective options.

While some acquisitions have led to great innovations, such as Apple incorporating features like Siri from the 30+ AI startups it acquired over the last decade, other instances, like Google shuttering numerous programs, showcase the potential pitfalls of consolidation.

AI as a Service and Pay-Walling

While consolidation poses challenges to development, the more significant concern lies in the tendency to place AI tools behind paywalls or offer them as subscription services. Companies naturally seek to monetize their AI tools swiftly and effectively. For instance, Microsoft already offers its AI tool Copilot as a subscription service, and Amazon reportedly plans to introduce a paid Alexa service, "Alexa Plus," featuring premium features.

Running these programs, developing infrastructure, and staying ahead in terms of development are costly endeavors for large companies. While pay-walling premium features is not a novel approach, consumers generally resist being forced to pay for tools they are already using. In the realm of new technology and the push for expanded integration and adoption, subscriptions may not be the most effective means to align consumers with corporate plans. If consumers push back against adoption, some otherwise promising companies might face setbacks.

Big Tech Control Playing Big Brother

One area I haven't really discussed is big tech and government level control. We are already seeing governments around the world  looking at regulations and attempts at controlling or slowing AI adoption. Historically speaking rapid progression of technology hasn't been the best thing. We've made some big mistakes over the years. Generally big tech has played big brother of sorts and held back quick rapid releases of new technology. Hint there are things they have now you still won't see for yrs because of costs Where this control and controlled slow releases may be warranted. The down side is if we attempt to slow adoption in one area we inevitably kill off competition and innovation in another!

If government regulation is overly strict it puts undue pressure on start-up companies and keeps them from the market. If they aren't strict enough then we see top tier companies effectively being the key-holders and keeping innovation out (or in). We end up putting in place too many barriers and true innovators suffer the consequences!

My Conclusion

From my background in the tech sector and the work I've done over the years I see the term AI as much more of a marketing term right now than anything else. People overlook that Siri, Alexa, Google Search ect are all essentially AI. For me personally I think the term as we currently use it Artificial Intelligence, really is a misnomer. I think Augmented Intelligence is far closer to what we currently have rather than the average person thinks of AI  (which is mostly a theatrical movie style computer driven intelligence).

I feel that if we see our current systems going to SaaS (subscriber or pay-to-use) we'll see consumer blow-back and companies will have to rethink their programs. I believe people are already starting to wake up to over utilization of the AI label and the market saturation of the term! My hope is companies keep an even keel on this and let the tech progress naturally. Hopefully smaller companies and individual developers are lost in the shuffle!

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

2024 IPOs Are Coming, Will We See a Boom or Bust

Just a few of the IPOs expected are; Reddit, Discord, Skims, Stripe, Shein, Panera, and Liquid Death (amongst about 50 more top names). IPOs over the last few years have had some mixed results and unfortunately some of these may see the same downturns.

First off, we are seeing a draw back from the tech sector. So many of these tech related companies might be a tough sell on Wall Street. Several major players have been selling off real estate and downsizing work forces. We have also seen many major startups failing all together.

Secondly, many of the companies expected to go public are already cash strapped and are only making the move because they need to capital. While this is normal, it also indicates that they may not be on a solid foundation. A major negative for Wall Street players looking for long term growth potential.

On the upside, most of these brands carry major 'sentimental' up-value. Meaning investors will grab a hold of them because they are who they are. The question we'll see answered, really quickly, is if that brand recognition will hold value and those IPOs pay off the way these companies hope!

 As an investor and Techie it will be interesting to watch what happens. Some of these tech companies directly impact my daily life as I'm a member of several of their sites. We are already seeing push-back  from Reddit developers seeking more money or a share of the value add their work has given the company. Once the money starts flowing we may see a major negative push! Fingers crossed for any early investors!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Google Play Now Lets You Play [Some] Mobile Games on Your PC

For those of you that love your mobile games but hate being tied to that small screen, Google has just launched a new offering that will allow you to explore and play mobile games on your PC or laptop.

Google Play Games Beta allows you to experience bigger, bolder versions of select mobile games on Google's gaming platform for PC.You can use your mouse and keyboard to gain agility and boost your performance and accomplish a few more feats in games than you might be able to just using you phone.

 As this is in beta only there is currently a short list of games that you can enjoy - you'll see many of your favorites like Angry Birds 2, Asphalt 9: Legends, Jackpot World - Slots Casino and Rise of Empires: Ice and Fire. While the list might be short, for now, it does offer plenty of options to test out. However, those that might want more option might want to checkout Bluestacks (see our previous post). This cool little app allows you to run almost any Android app and isn't limited t just games.

Monday, September 25, 2023

AI Regulations and Why Companies Welcome Them

As the adoption of AI, more directly generative AI, we see more companies calling on the government to step in and step up with regulations. For some this seems counterintuitive. Why would an AI company seek regulation in their own industry that would slow down adoption of their tools right? There are two schools of thought on this.

  • Companies are truly concerned that their tools are being used for nefarious activities (scams, hacking cheating ect)
  • Companies are concerned that the pace of the market means they will become irrelevant before they can make a market impact

As much as we'd like to think that tech companies are altruistic. Historically speaking, this hasn't been the case. So while some of their calls to action might be rooted in a desire to steer things down the 'right path' it is more likely that they are worried about their massive investment and potential returns.

The AI movement/generation is very quickly becoming what the DOT-COM era was. Startups are hitting amazing valuations and being gobbled up by the big boys in tech. Amazon recently spent 4b investing in AI Startup Anthropic. While Google, NVIDIA, Apple and others are not far behind. If AI continues to evolve at the pace it is now, many of those investment could be outdated and loose overall value well before they produce something that is marketable.

As a comparison Siri was first released in 2011, Alexa in 2014 and both are precursors to the large language models we see rapidly advancing today. It too more than a decade for their widespread adoption. Whereas ChatGPT broke into the market this past year and set off a firestorm and created a free for all in the market and development space. So while we are seeing companies actively petition for some government oversight, what we aren't seeing is those very same companies exhibiting a measure of self control!


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