BPM Conference Portugal 2017 – an event in review

“Recursive enumeration is a process in which new things emerge from old fixed rules. There seem to be many surprises in such process […]. Recursively defined sequences […] possess some sort of inherently increasing complexity of behavior, so that the further out you go, the less predictable they get. This kind of thought carried a little further suggests that suitably complicated recursive systems might be strong enough to breakout of any predetermined patterns. And isn’t this one of the defining properties of intelligence? Instead of just considering programs composed of procedures which can recursively call themselves, why not get really sophisticated, and invent programs which can modify themselves, programs which can act on programs, extending them, improving them, generalizing them, fixing them, and so on? This kind of “tangled recursion” probably lies at the heart of intelligence.”

Douglas R. Hofstadter – Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal Golden Braid – a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll

Artificial Intelligence (AI) I is democratizing societal change, evolving human progress by helping people and enterprises innovate in ways not previously possible. Paul Harmon presented a historic – still important, perspective how long is the road of Artificial Intelligence materialization. Technologies like machine learning; vision and natural language processing technologies are blended together, and ultimately, platforms with intelligent technologies are integrated into interactive systems to enhance human cognition. His point of view was to bring awareness that most of these technologies exists since the 80’s, but for reasons related with low ROI, lack of investment on research and development that expanded existing rudimentary features took time to materialize. However, as Paul pointed the time to adopt AI is now. Making a profit and achieving success through innovation and process improvement. He gave the example that in banking industry, mobile app’s is no longer enough, applications that can talk to customers and announce decisions is the next logical step if a bank want to stay ahead of competition.

Ross Brow, brought the perspective on by using 3D environments, virtual reality and gamming, it is possible to augment human creativity, empathy, emotion, and judgment with the computational speed and ability to analyze business processes. I particularly liked the examples around passenger movement in airports or the other one, a case management back-office process on which using those technologies it is possible to process large amounts of data see and fell the business process moving, identifying bottlenecks and discover new improvement opportunities. Ross presentation was an eye opener how you can use virtual environments to support business transformation. In an era of a multitude of tools and techniques used to reinvent a business, virtual reality – still perceived as a domestic consumer technology used for entertainment – is definitively a groundbreaking disruption approach to innovate an enterprise.

Manuela Veloso talked about robots, not in the factory floor context, but in the personal digital assistant field. Digital assistants get to know the people they serve over time so they can provide a personal and helpful service. Manuela stressed the long road ahead in terms on what is needed to robots to learn. By the implementation of computer vision, robots gain sight so they can detect objects, create space awareness and by the combination or learning human instructions they can move and serve humans augmenting human tasks in the workplace. However, the day were robots will combine multiple AI technologies and be able to unleash a much wide possibilities in the business context is still not a reality – the example she provided on how a robot can open all the possible door handles existing in the world and move freely on a building is still something far from reality, as it is the application of our all dreams in terms of machine powered devices.

Bianca Furtuna, presented a comprehensive perspective on AI, by making applications and devices intelligent and giving them the capability to comprehend and interact with the world naturally, organizations can continue to improve human to machine interactions in powerful way. She described a compendium of technologies that can be used as the new capabilities to drive business transformation. Vision can be used from object detection to face recognition and emotions; natural language processing used to recognize intent including jargon and local culture references or even language blend as it occurs in multi-lingual language countries and search to help humans find specific information in knowledge repositories together with context awareness to provide more relevant information.

Paulo Cortez, went through a series of real examples where AI is being used already today. I particularly liked the mass personalization in banking industry, which financial institution collects and consolidates customer’s preferences, behaviors, likes and dislikes, and expectations, way beyond transactional banking and get personal recommendations about the kind of financial products that fits their truly needs and wants. As he pointed out, intelligence gets personal.

If there was shadow or sense of doubt over this event edition was definitively if machines could think and it would replace humanity. The effect of singularity or machine domination is still a conceptual fantasy mostly driven by science fiction movies and delusional predictions that keep being postponed year after year. I ultimately believe – and this was one of the major conclusions of the event which many attendees confirmed during some brief talks I have with them – that humans and powered AI machines will work together, not compete against each other. Humans will be much more empowered by the symbiotic combination of machine work, meaning that we will need to continuous to adapt to rather than become indispensables, we increase our own capabilities.

2016 edition summary can be found here.



One thought on “BPM Conference Portugal 2017 – an event in review

  1. Can I make the point that none of the above is AI but just ML or machine learning. ML is mostly about pattern recognition and only works sensible with human input. All of ML is very difficult to do toady and needs many experts. We have introduced a truly simple ML component to learn process patters from human interaction in 2009 and it has not found much interest. The most common argument was: what if it is wrong? There will not be humanlike AI mostly because with humans ‘consciousness’ came first and was a prerequisite for higher intelligence and not a consequence. ML algorithms will be helpful like many other software solutions but only once people understand them better and the current fears created by the alarmists will abate.

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