According to AI expert Inma Martinez, we have no need to fear AI because, although our ways of working will change, they will change for the better. “AI is actually going to empower people in their jobs and make their jobs less mechanical and tedious and more creative and human,” she said.
"We need artistic creative people to work in AI."
As well as making our jobs more human, Martinez believes that inventive and innovative people will be needed to help create AI. “The future is going to be right-brain. We are going to need artistic, creative people to also work in AI teams,” she stated.
This belief influences the way Martinez guides and mentors entrepreneurial teams that are part of the Deep Science Ventures. The business originated from the Imperial College London accelerator programme that, in 2017, opened up to post-doctorates from different universities. Martinez specifically works with those that have an AI or analytics component in their business.
"They pair up with other super geniuses and potentially a start-up is born."
“It is a real knowledge transfer programme,” said Martinez, explaining that post-doctorate students with backgrounds ranging from engineering to life sciences bring their theses to the accelerator with the aim of collaboration. “Within a period of six months - and with them pairing up with other super geniuses - potentially a start-up is born.”
In her experience, start-ups that have a mix of skills in their teams are the ones that are most successful, reinforcing her belief that AI is scientific and creative. “Machine learning is trial and error. In clustering, you know what you want to unveil are the decisions within a given decision. You think that the data is going to give you that outcome and then you realise that you actually have to apply another type of algorithmic approach,” she said.
“Most scientists that I work with are creative people."
To Martinez, the ability to think laterally is an important attribute of a good scientist. “Most scientists that I work with are creative people, people that think laterally, people that say: ‘what if you were to throw that thing into the mix?’."
Martinez' ability to think creatively and her propensity to make sideways shifts in her career with ease may stem from her humanities background, having studied literature from undergraduate to PhD level. She then went to work at Goldman Sachs as an equities analyst because, in those days in the 1990s, big banks used to hire from multi-disciplines as traditionally they had very long training programmes.
It was at the investment bank that she discovered her knack for analytics. “In my training programme, I developed this very, very good skill for quant and analytics. I was able to see patterns. I had a gut feeling for them,” she said.
She built a prediction model in Excel for a traditionally unpredictable and volatile Brazilian market. Her prediction model was singled out for praise by the head of her division.
“I saw the light. I saw the future."
By the end of the 1990s, Martinez was working for Cable and Wireless “happily heading the global IP service” and was responsible for teams in the US and Hong Kong. She happened to read Mary Meeker’s report on Internet in Europe and came across a particular paragraph.
She remembered it clearly stating: “Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson are co-developing a new data transmission protocol called wireless access protocol that will allow mobile phones to transmit data at 56 kilobytes per second.”
Having been trained in telecoms engineering, Martinez knew that 56 kilobytes per second was the speed of a fax machine. “I saw the light. I saw the future,” she said, certain that this new development would revolutionise the mobile telecoms industry. And so, she made another sideways move in her career.
"I built the first AI system of the mobile industry globally."
“That made me completely embrace the original working groups for XML, for WAP and I went into the mobile industry as one of the pioneers and eventually left the firm and built the first AI system of the mobile industry globally,” she recalled. Martinez remembers this as the most intense and unexpected step she has taken that has defined the rest of her life.
Now, as a consultant at Right Brain Future, she is hired by multi-national corporations and embeds herself into those organisations to impart her skills in data and analytics projects for periods of anything between six months to two years. Martinez also does a lot of speaking engagements at corporate events because, “AI is the next big thing on the horizon that almost every multi-national wants to understand and tackle it.”
She is now doing more keynote speeches than ever before. “I am the big evangeliser. AI has exploded in the last two years. I have never done more speaking in my life and I have been doing it for 15 years.”
With this explosion, Martinez said she sees a lot of space opening up for self-starters and autodidacts which, in turn, could help to redress the gender imbalance in tech.
"Women right now have a fantastic moment in time to educate themselves with the best skills they can."
“You make it your business to understand how it works, you read it, you research it, it is a self-taught thing. Women right now have a fantastic moment in time to educate themselves with the best skills they can, be multi-skilled, then learn what it is they want to achieve,” she said.
Martinez also highlighted people with specialisms in human psychology, anthropology, ergonomics and design as being particularly necessary for the data and AI industries because, “it is thanks to those skills you can make sense of the data.”
Inma Martinez spoke to DataIQ at the everywoman in Technology Forum.