AI – the future of work

Published via the RightBrains platform 1 June 2021.

Alex Dowdalls is no stranger to the RightBrains community. As the founder and Director of AXVECO, Alex aims to help organisations renew their business models through data and technology, maintaining the delicate balance between the creation and protection of value and bringing these two worlds closer together. Alex joined the RightBrains Digital Leadership Programme team as a lecturer in 2020, where he’s been teaching and sharing his expertise in data and artificial intelligence. His work is centred on the key message that, if businesses want to maintain a competitive edge in the market, they “must be aware of data and technology and the way it is absolutely transforming our world at the moment.”

Technology and business are inseparable

With 30 years’ experience in the digital industry, Alex has seen and done it all. “I went full circle, really. At university I studied chip-design and computer sciences, and then I began working as a software developer. I went on to become a project manager in software related projects, followed by project managing change projects, management consulting and business redesign. And now, 30 years later, I am back where I started!”

Having worked in multiple different business disciplines, Alex has experienced first-hand how technology has become an inseparable part of business: “When you design a business today, you’re actually configuring technology. You’re programming, setting up systems, working with data, and trying to get computer systems to support human activity.”

And because of Alex’s unique understanding of both technology and business, he is able to translate and explain the intrinsic value and application of data across all levels: “I fundamentally get what technology doing and what it’s not doing, what it is, and what it is not, and I can explain it to the CEO’s, directors and managers, right down to the operational people on the shop floor.” His ability to frame the value of technology and its application within the contexts of different businesses and their business models is not only the reason why Alex is viewed as an industry expert. It is also his motivation for getting involved in education, training and communication awareness.

The data and AI revolution is here

According to Alex, there is a global shift taking place towards a world where data is increasingly influencing the physical world: “Our existence in the data world has become much more relevant. It is something we actually have to be aware of and worry about, something to take action on, and something that, as a business, you can no longer ignore.”

And in order to be successful, organisations need to play their part by embracing technology in their ecosystems and understanding its impact, because their competitors will undoubtedly be doing the same. Businesses need to be data driven and simultaneously operate in both the physical and the digital worlds: “People need to wake up and see that we have now entered the new ‘industrial’ time of data where business strategy, country strategy and even military strategy are all being informed by data. It’s called the fourth industrial revolution by the World Economic Forum, and it’s changing the world.”

Ethical data creates value

According to Alex, data is a powerful asset, while AI is a powerful tool, and these can be applied in both positive and negative ways: “We have already seen how human behaviour can be influenced by using fake data and AI tools, but at the same time these can be applied in a positive context to create and protect value.”

Within the current paradigm, ethics in the gathering and application of data is becoming of growing concern on a global level. While the manner in which different nations apply ethics in data applications vary greatly, Alex believes that the EU has found an interesting balance through the compilation of its Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, a set of guidelines that present an ethically sound way of using AI to the benefit of mankind: “It’s not a question of whether we know what the ethical principles are or not, because we do know what they are, and the European Guidelines provide a fantastic compass for where we should go with technology.”

Innovation flourishes in a diverse environment

For Alex, the future undoubtedly lies in artificial intelligence and he believes that this is also a space where women can specialise and increase their footprint in the digital industry: “I know that the people that are using AI are going to take over from the people who don’t use AI. And I’m quite simple on that: use AI! It will give you a more competitive edge.”

Alex believes that diversity is a critical ingredient in any innovation context: “You won’t have innovation without diversity, because you will end up getting a single-focus tunnel view of something. The best creativity and the best innovation is non-linear and happens in a mixed environment. And the more diverse, the better.”

With thanks to Geke Rosier at RightBrains.