Navigating the AI Landscape: Insights from Google's Vertex AI Platform Lead

AI is not new, but we still have questions. We spoke with Chris Wetnight, Google's Vertex AI Platform Lead, about the current landscape.

Article By
Tatum Lynch

The AI hype wave has been upon us now for months, and businesses are scrambling to integrate it into their products to stay competitive. However, there are still many unanswered questions. We spoke with Chris Wetnight, Google's Vertex AI Platform Lead, about the current landscape and what’s to come. Read more for my key takeaways from our conversation with Chris and delve into what you need to consider when leveraging generative AI.

Don’t Get Lost in the Noise — Find the Right Internal Use Case For Your Business

Companies know they have to begin using AI in some capacity to stay competitive, but what should they be considering before implementing it into their work processes? Chris expressed that leaders and companies should start by understanding core technology concepts like foundational models, stable diffusion, the GPT family, model customization methods, PaLM2, etc. This will help companies strike a balance between the big bets and more practical, achievable use cases.

Once you have core technology concepts down, you’re going to be better equipped to distinguish actionable things with generative AI versus this hype and noise in the marketplace. Then, you can really start looking at prioritizing specific use cases that make sense to the business.
Chris Wetnight, Vertex AI Platform Lead at Google

Chris reiterated that while the allure of 10x efficiency gains might be tempting, companies should build the business case to implement AI around achievable and more realistic gains that are closer to 10%. 

If Your Company Isn’t Developing AI Guidelines, You May Want to Add It to Your Priority List

As AI technology evolves, deploying it responsibly becomes paramount. Chris outlined several guidelines that Google follows, including ensuring that the technology is socially beneficial, avoids the creation or reinforcement of bias, and prioritizes safety in the development and testing process. But creating these guidelines isn’t enough. Chris told our audience that companies must incorporate these guidelines into their culture and educate their employees on the positive and negative aspects of AI. This is a new space for everyone, and executives must remember that. 

Remain Realistic About AI’s Capabilities

Right now, AI seems like it can solve all our world’s problems, but we need to be realistic. Chris expressed that it is reaching the peak of expectations in the hype cycle, and we’re headed to the trough of disillusionment. Businesses need to be careful of getting caught off guard if AI fails to meet lofty promises. To avoid this, Chris reinforced the idea that businesses should focus on specific use cases that are approachable and measurable. But this doesn’t mean AI can’t be a game-changer for your business. Chris acknowledged that utilizing these tools will enhance employees’ productivity and will keep companies relevant.

There Are Exciting Possibilities Ahead

Just like the ocean, the AI wave shows no signs of ending. When asked what he was most excited about next in this space, he mentioned artificial general intelligence (AGI). Currently, society is welcoming AI with open arms. But the moment it evolves from merely performing tasks to thinking more like humans, how will we react? We’ll have to see how much we’ll allow AI into our personal lives and the trade-offs we are willing to make in terms of privacy. 

He also mentioned he’s excited about the new Frontier Model Forum, an industry body that Google, Anthropic, OpenAI, and Microsoft are launching to ensure the safe and responsible development of frontier AI models. He hopes that the standards and guardrails this forum is creating will be adopted by the overall industry and will mitigate risks associated with the technology.

Advice from an AI Expert

To close the conversation, we asked Chris what he would advise the group as we continue exploring AI. He circled back to earlier in our conversation and recommended everyone sharpen their problem-framing skills and learn how to identify whether this technology is the right solution to the problem. Currently, there's a significant gap in the industry's problem-solving skills as most professionals look to AI for every answer, but we need to develop these skills as the technology continues to advance.

Final Thoughts

AI presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses. By identifying realistic use cases and adopting responsible deployment practices, companies can harness AI's power to differentiate themselves and drive tangible value. 

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