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CEO of Sentient: AI is Not Replacing Human Intelligence

Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous physicist, is worried. Artificial intelligence is growing in power day by day and he thinks that the full development of it “could spell the end of the human race.” His bold comment has divided the community with some dismissing it as simply overblown. But it still leads to an important question: Is there a danger that super intelligent computers one day will out-smart us all?

I am speaking on the phone with Antoine Blondeau, CEO of AI start up Sentient. He is talking to me from his base in San Francisco and he disagrees with Hawking:

“I think a lot of these claims about AI may make good press but they are not necessarily grounded in what some of the AI companies out there are trying to solve. It’s not about replacing human intelligence but about augmenting human intelligence. It is really about giving that intelligence tools that can help humans solve problems.”

And this is what Blondeau tells me his company, Sentient is trying to achieve. Sentient works on scaling artificial intelligence to help companies solve problems: “We take machine learning AI and algorithms – and scale them dramatically so by that we tailor and distribute them around thousands of sites and millions of processors.”

Sentient has been around for about six years and has managed to raise a total of $143 million in funding. The founding team actually worked on the technology that became Siri, Apple’s famous voice-controlled virtual assistant. I ask Blondeau if his work on Siri influenced what Sentient are working on now.

“Machine learning has been consistently present in the world – known for having a tangible impact on people’s lives so we could clearly see that the age of AI machine learning was finally there - to design systems and products that would be useful in a very tangible way.”

Blondeau tells me how the technology they are developing is being used in healthcare to help detect sepsis, the top killer in intensive care units. Sentient’s technology is used to take a huge amount of data and develop predictive models where it can predict with more than 90% accuracy sepsis before it occurs.

“The health practitioner gets a head start to take action before a patient goes critical. That’s a huge problem to solve. Once you are in sepsis shock, you have one in two chance of dying so the real gain here is to predict the sepsis shock before it happens.”

What do you see as the future for your technology?

“The main issue that we address is the massive amounts of data and the dimensionality of that,” Blondeau tells me.

“That’s where scale comes in. We have enormous amounts of scale that can tackle a lot more complex problems. The only way to make better decisions. This is how we differentiate ourselves with our ability to scale AI to levels that have never been achieved before.”


This May IDG Connect produced a special report: “Is 2014 the Year of Artificial Intelligence?” 


Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect


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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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