Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features a conversation on AI with Alexander Fleiss, CEO of Rebellion Research, a New York company that delivers AI-driven investment advice to its clients worldwide. Andrew is also a lecturer on AI at Yale, Amherst, and Rutgers. As Alexander puts it, teaching is his passion.

We talked about how small businesses already use AI, but largely indirectly through the software they use (he cited Zendesk as a good example). In fact, most SMBs using AI probably do so without any awareness that they are.

We also talked about how small businesses in some ways are in a better position than large organizations to deploy AI because they have simpler problems to solve and small data sets to work with. And then we got into the fun stuff. Robot dog walkers. Robot waitresses. Robot financing. All the Jetsons, Cyberdyne, dystopic stuff people love to talk about.

One of his more interesting predictions was that driverless car will be prevalent by 2025 and that one outcome will be that cars will become homey, social spaces once car owners no longer need to worry about doing the driving.

Alexander comes down on the side of AI creating more and better jobs than it kills. I express some skepticism that every displaced worker can be retrained as a programmer, as Alexander argues most can. We didn’t even get to the threat AI represents to knowledge workers like accountants, lawyers and even, gulp, writers. And Alexander made this feel a little scarier when he talked about how the advent of 5G (over the next couple of years) will accelerate the rollout of robots that replace laborers — drivers, waitresses, dog walkers, landscapers, and so on.

Here are a few choice comments from Alexander. I encourage you to listen to the full podcast below.

Why SMBs May Have an Edge over Big Firms in Implementing AI

“When you are a 10-25 person small business, first of all, you have less data, so it’s easier to work with. You have fewer customers, fewer products, fewer targets to hit. If you are a very large business, you have a thousand bullseyes to hit. As a smaller business, you don’t have as many bullseyes.”

Why AI Might Gain Traction First in a Vertical Category

“When it comes to working with AI, the narrower you can be, the more you can contain your dataset into a vacuum, the easier it is for AI to work.”

Why AI Will Be a Net Positive for Job Creation

“Throughout history, progress consistently has brought more jobs at higher pay and in a better environment…The Uber driver who gets replaced by a driverless car will make more money as a programming assistant and will get to spend more time with his loved ones. And he won’t have to worry about robbery or getting into accidents.”

Why Unleashing the Bots Will Disproportionately Benefit Small Businesses

“Small businesses have a much greater share of their cost in labor than large businesses. So having automated trucking, waitresses, etc., will help small businesses boost profits more than larger businesses, which are already very efficient.”

And How Will Small Businesses Pay for Those Robot Waitresses?

“In a few years you re going to see advertisements for bot lending that say, ‘pay us $400 a month (to finance the bot) or pay your employee $2,000 a month.'”

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