You've got to know how to work with humans...

You've got to know how to work with humans...

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DeepFest 2024 speaker Jack McCauley (Professor and Innovator in Residence at UC Berkeley) mentors students in innovation across a range of tech segments – including AI. As an engineer, investor, video game developer and philanthropist, he was involved in the development of Oculus VR (later acquired by Facebook); and before that, he designed instruments for the Guitar Hero video game.

We caught up with McCauley for some quick-fire questions. And one of his answers sparked a deep conversation among our team: about why the people working most closely with AI need to have solid people skills.

What are the most exciting developments in AI tech you’ve observed over the last year or so?

“Beginning to look at regenerating world maps using AI,” he said. He cited the game Grand Theft Auto (GTA) as a great example where AI-powered maps could transform game development:

“...on GTA5, the world map for that game was done in cad. It took many, many, many years to develop that map, which was done on auto cad by a very large team. All of the buildings were drawn by a human and shaded and textured by an artist. Wouldn't it be great if you could just describe to midjourny what the building is to look like and have it generate it?”

Is there anything that worries you about AI?

“Yes. AI could be used for fake bots to influence society, politics, and attack by creating false-negatives. For instance ‘50 top intelligence officials believe Trump and Russia are colluding’ ad nauseum.”

How did your work on Oculus VR influence your future goals?

“My work there, after retiring from industry 10 years ago, enabled me to live a life of great gifts. I could run a charity, support various organisations, [and support] education via my generous donations.”

What’s one thing you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

“How to work with others,” McCauley said, adding: “how to manage people.”

And this struck us as an important point: because even when you work in AI, you’ve got to know how to work with humans. Perhaps especially when you work in AI.

Why especially?

Because there’s so much complex, subtle negotiation and collaboration that needs to take place in order to integrate AI into our societies in a positive (and not harmful) way. As McCauley alluded to, there’s serious potential for AI to be used nefariously – and in order to mitigate that and develop standards, agreements, and valuable use cases for AI, we need to be able to work together.

Who’s we?

Everyone.

Governments, public sector organisations, and private sector enterprises. Different nationalities, different communities. People from different backgrounds, genders, ethnic groups. Individuals and groups that are economically and socially diverse:

Because everyone needs to be included in the conversation about AI.

And for that to happen, we’ve got to know how to work with people:

To understand, empathise, and accept that a whole spectrum of perspectives are valid – even if they’re different from our own.

So we hope that everyone working in AI, at every stage of their career, invests in developing their soft skills. Communication is key to our future with artificial intelligence – so let’s learn how to talk and listen.

Did you miss DeepFest 2024? Don’t worry – join us in Riyadh next year for the 2025 edition. Claim your pass here.


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