H2O.ai CEO tools up for ubiquitous AI

Sri Satish Ambati wants to make AI as elemental as water.

AI is at that awkward age. While digital leaders pile in, many companies have only tipped a toe in the water. It's fair to say that the founder and CEO of H2O.ai, Sri Satish Ambati, wants that to change and his mission is to democratise AI's power; oddly enough, Covid-19 may accelerate the process.

One odd effect of the pandemic has been to make wannabe data scientists of us all, desperate for numbers to inspect and analyse. That hasn't been all good, clearly, and Ambati laments some of the false conclusions that have plagued the news cycle.

"There has been a pandemic of great proportions but also an epidemic of dashboards and a lot of misleading signals," he says, sporting his characteristic cap over a Zoom call. "We got better and better but in the early days there was clearly a lot of cognitive dissonance from poorly-made data science."

However, Ambati says that the pandemic may also play a part in speeding up acceptance of AI. He was already "expecting 2022 to be the year of true enterprise AI" but a tipping point could come sooner "because people have to bring in elements of holistic renaissance thinking".


Makers gonna make

A nine-year-old Silicon Valley company, H2O offers platforms and technologies that are in turn intended to spark a new generation of AI makers. He is simultaneously a cheerleader for AI but also a voice of reason: "All models are wrong, some models are useful," he suggests, and he knows that much of the power of AI lies in the benefits of making wrong assumptions over and over again to eventually home in on truth.

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