By Hui Wang, Vice President Global Data Science & Machine Learning, PayPal
The recent developments around generative AI (defined as algorithms that can be leveraged to generate new content) have created an incredible opportunity for nearly everyone around the world to leverage the power of data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to drive the next wave of digital transformation. At PayPal, we are excited by the potential of generative AI and are actively exploring, assessing and executing on opportunities leveraging the technology that can improve customer experience, drive operational efficiency, and help us create a more customer-centric business.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of hosting a conversation between Sri Shivananda, EVP and Chief Technology Officer at PayPal, and Ali Dalloul, Worldwide VP of Customer Experience Engineering for Microsoft Azure AI Platform. Sri and Ali shared their perspectives and insights around generative AI and how companies like PayPal and Microsoft are leveraging the technology. In the post below, I’ve outlined the discussion and some of the key takeaways.
AI isn’t new, it has been around since the 1940s. Over the past 10 to 15 years, however, there have been major breakthroughs in machine learning (a branch of AI and computer science that uses data and algorithms to imitate the way humans learn) and deep learning (part of the broader family of machine learning that is based on multiple layers of artificial neural networks with representation learning), which has brought us to where we are today with large foundation models.
Ali explained that, over the past decade, there have been three major breakthroughs around AI:
The three factors above have brought us to a point that is truly unprecedented in the industry, and it has yielded three important outcomes:
AI could enable us to boost the productivity of our economies. It could also help people become more skilled by flattening the learning curve between very skilled and unskilled employees. AI also has the potential to diminish a lot of our time spent on basic repetitive tasks, allowing us to be more productive and creative.
When thinking about ways to leverage generative AI, it's important to think holistically, not just about a specific function, but end-to-end across all functions within a company. It's important to think about how we can improve our customer experience by better understanding them and their needs, and catering to those specific needs. By leveraging generative AI, we have the potential to improve everything from customer support and engineering to compliance and accounting.
Ali summarized his thoughts in three buckets:
It’s important to take a 360-degree approach to innovation – not just for AI but for any technology trend. Sri shared his perspective on how to encourage a culture of AI within a large organization.
“At PayPal, we have always been a customer champion,” Sri shared. If we always start with the customer and we think about the customer and what’s in their best interest and how we build a long-term relationship with them and protect them on this journey, that will guide us to always do what’s right. We’re not necessarily in the business of payments, we are in the business of trust.”
AI is a very powerful technology that has also created a lot of fear and uncertainty, but having a customer mindset as a company brings with it a lot of responsibility and accountability. No company is going on this journey alone, the whole world is going through it together. Companies like PayPal and Microsoft and their partners and communities need to come together to apply the guardrails of what it means to be a civilization unleashing the power of AI technology. Including the right ethics, the right constraints and controls, the right limits, the right understanding of what’s good and what’s not good guiding this technology. Technology at the end of the day is an enabler, it’s not the destination.
Ali and Sri both agreed that the most important thing is to be willing to continuously learn. Technology will evolve. Methods and architecture will evolve. Learning to learn will set you up for success on the ongoing AI journey. It’s also important to become more comfortable with data. Data literacy is going to be very important and data science will be a foundational skill for all engineers. Leveraging AI and ML models will become a primary design consideration. It’s also important to tinker – just get in there and start to play with it. Everyone will need to be thinking about exploratory research that needs to be done. And, finally, fail! If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. Learn from those failures, iterate over and over again. That’s how you leverage the power of the generative AI trend.
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.
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