Unable to attend SAS Global Forum 2017 happening now in Orlando? We’ve got you covered! You can view live stream video from the conference, and check back here for important news from the conference, starting with the highlights from last night’s Opening Session.
While the location and record attendance made for a full house this year, CEO Jim Goodnight explained that there couldn’t be a more perfect setting to celebrate innovation than the world of Walt Disney. “Walt was a master innovator, combining art and science to create an entirely new way to make intelligent connections,” said Goodnight. “SAS is busy making another kind of intelligent connection – the kind made possible by data and analytics.”
It’s SAS’ mission to bring analytics everywhere and to make it ambient. That was exactly the motivation that drove SAS nearly four years ago when embarking on a massive undertaking known as SAS® Viya™. But SAS Viya – announced last year in Las Vegas – is more than just a fast, powerful, modernized analytics platform. Goodnight said it’s really the perfect marriage of science and art.
“Consider what would be possible if analytics could be brought into every moment and every place that data exists,” said Goodnight. “The opportunities are enormous, and like Walt Disney, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Driving an analytics economy
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Randy Guard took the stage to update attendees on new releases available on SAS Viya and why SAS is so excited about it. And he explained the reason for SAS Viya comes from the changes being driven in the analytics marketplace. It’s what Guard referred to as an analytics economy – where the maturity of algorithms and techniques progress rapidly. “This is a place where disruption is normal, a place where you want to be the disruptor; you want to be the innovator,” said Guard. That’s exactly what you can achieve with SAS Viya.
As if SAS Viya didn’t leave enough of an impression, Guard took it one step further by inviting Goodnight back on stage to give users a preview into the newest innovation SAS has been cooking up. Using the Amazon Echo Dot – better known as Alexa – Goodnight put cognitive computing into action as he called up annual sales, forecasts and customer satisfaction reports in SAS® Visual Analytics.
Though still in its infant stages of development, the demo was just another reminder that when it comes to analytics, SAS never stops thinking of the next great thing.
AI: The illusion of intelligence
With his Segway Mini, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Oliver Schabenberger rolled on stage, fully trusting that his “smart legs” wouldn’t drive him off and into the audience. “I’ve accepted that algorithms and software have intelligence; I’ve accepted that they make decisions for us, but we still have choices,” said Schabenberger.
Diving into artificial intelligence, he explained that today’s algorithms operate with super-human abilities – they are reliable, repeatable and work around the clock without fatigue – yet they don’t behave like humans. And while the “AI” label is becoming trendy, true systems deserving of the AI title have two distinct things in common: they belong to the class of weak AI systems and they tend to be based on deep learning.
So, why are those distinctions important? Schabenberger explained that a weak AI system is trained to do one task only – the system driving an autonomous vehicle cannot operate the lighting in your home.
“SAS is very much engaged in weak AI, building cognitive systems into our software,” he said. “We are embedding learning and gamification into solutions and you can apply deep learning to text, images and time series.” Those cognitive systems are built into SAS Viya. And while they are powerful and great when they work, Schabenberger begged the question of whether or not they are truly intelligent.
Think about it. True intelligence requires some form of creativity, innovation and independent problem solving. The reality is, that today’s algorithms and software, no matter how smart, are being used as decision support systems to augment our own capabilities and make us better.
But it’s uncomfortable to think about fully trusting technology to make decisions on our behalf. “We make decisions based on reason, we use gut feeling and make split-second judgment calls based on incomplete information,” said Schabenberger. “How well do we expect machines to perform [in our place]when we let them loose and how quickly do we expect them to learn on the job?”
It’s those kinds of questions that prove that all we can handle today is the illusion of intelligence. “We want to get tricked by the machine in a clever way,” said Schabenberger. “The rest is just hype.”
Creating tomorrow‘s analytics leaders
With a room full of analytics leaders, Vice President of Sales Emily Baranello asked attendees to consider where the future leaders of analytics will come from. If you ask SAS, talent will be pulled from universities globally that have partnered with SAS to create 200 types of programs that teach today’s students how to work in SAS software. The commitment level to train up future leaders is evident and can be seen in SAS certifications, joint certificate programs and SAS’ track toward nearly 1 million downloads of SAS® Analytics U.
“SAS talent is continuing to building in the marketplace,” said Baranello. “Our goal is to bring analytics everywhere and we will continue to partner with universities to ready those students to be your successful employees.”
Using data for good
More than just analytics and technology, SAS’ brand is a representation of people who make the world a better place. Knowing that, SAS announced the development of GatherIQ – a customized crowdsourcing app that will begin with two International Organization for Migration (IOM) projects. One project will specifically focus on global migration, using data to keep migrants safe as they search for a better life. With GatherIQ, changing the world might be as easy as opening an app.
There's much more to come, so stay tuned to SAS blogs this week for the latest updates from SAS Global Forum!