BeyondTheBlack and Beyond Technology, a Storytelling Experience I Never Expected

I recently attended an incredible event, BeyondTheBlack, hosted by BlackLine. As the leader in close management and reconciliation solutions for CFOs and other finance leaders, DataBlend is proud to partner with this great organization, offering easy-to-use integrations. And it was in San Diego, which didn't hurt. Of all the incredible panels from customers, leaders, and partners, I will never forget the one by futurist and wicked smart guy Maurice Conti. I would not call myself an early adopter of AI, so I liked how Maurice concisely gave a history of technological leaps for humans, the current context, and small steps the audience could take to start using AI.

Most importantly, he acknowledged the uncertainty and fears of a technology built to make itself smarter. He said, "Don't worry about AI. Worry about competitors using AI better than you." Here is my start. I asked Bing to write me a 150-word summary of Maurice Conti's generative AI presentation:



Maurice Conti, a futurist and innovator, delivered a TED talk titled "The Incredible Inventions of Intuitive AI" in which he discussed the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) as an active tool. He introduced the concept of the Augmented Age, which is based on cognitive augmentation and robots and AI working together with humans. He explained that computers can no longer just do what humans tell them; they are now generative and able to come up with their own solutions. He gave examples of how humans, computers, and robots are working together to solve highly complex design problems. He also described a vision of the future in which things are farmed, not fabricated; connected, not isolated; aggregated, not extracted; and autonomous, not obedient. Conti's speech highlights how much will change in the next 20 years in terms of how humans work and signifies a new era: the Augmented Age.


Reflecting Thoughts

His presentation won't stick with me because it helped me "embrace" this new technology; it was a story he told after the applause at the prompting of another futurist and technology visionary, Therese Tucker, the founder, and co-CEO of BlackLine. They met in 2017, and Therese told Maurice, "Please share with the audience what you told me when we first met."

Maurice and his wife decided it would be a good idea to sail around the world with their two young children in 2008. Really. While in a remote atoll in Fiji, they heard a mayday call from another yacht caught in a storm. They spent hours on their satellite phone/radio with various authorities in New Zealand and Fiji and the foundering vessel on the resources available for a rescue. The New Zealand Embassy laid it out like this: no one is coming to help; you have to rescue them. This was the point in the story I could tie back to what Maurice taught me about AI, namely that these programs are able to create/write by using statistics to guess what word should come next based on an exhaustive sweep of the web and what they have been asked to create. Maybe it's because I'm not a sailor and don't know the mariner's code, or I'm just plain craven, but in my left/right model, I would have gone left, and Maurice went right.

I'll save the story's finer points for your own research or experience, but for me to learn what I did about technology and people, I needed to be in that presentation and hear another person share their story. No ZoombotchatAIsanctionedbeing can replace that yet.


About the Author

Andrew McDonnell is DataBlend's Senior Director, Revenue, North America. Andrew is a failed auditor and current sales leader. Learn more about Andrew >