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Artificial Intelligence – Choosing to Be a Victim or a Victor

Artificial Intelligence – Choosing to Be a Victim or a Victor

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Wally BostonLast week, serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban created a stir with his statement at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference that the world’s first trillionaire will be someone who masters artificial intelligence (AI). In the past, Cuban has been an avowed proponent of the value of a liberal arts degree for its ability to teach critical thinking. However, at SXSW, he advocated the study of computer science, stating, “Whatever you are studying right now, if you are not getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks, etc., you lose.”

I have written about AI in the past, looking at its implications for both the workforce and education. I agree with Cuban that someone who masters AI in a new way will make a lot of money ($1 trillion sounds like a lot, but so did a billion a few years back). Anyone with a background in computer science should learn about deep learning and neural networks. However, I also think that there are other areas of future knowledge just as important. With the amount of data increasing at an incredibly fast pace, thanks to the Internet of Things and multiple smart devices that track our steps, location, heartbeat, driving, location, etc., data analytics has become an important field.

I recently visited a Boston company that created a database of email addresses for people in the U.S. and validated each address with publicly available data to associate them with a name and create a profile for each individual. URLs associated with the addresses allow the company to track web activities for each individual using that address. From that information, the company can build smaller datasets of people with similar consumer preferences.

The database has approximately 250 million unique addresses. I was not told how many fields exist for each address, but assume it is significant if individual information is included, along with sites visited from the most commonly used URL. The potential value of this database is immense. However, it’s not valuable if the data integrity is in question. The company did not disclose how many employees maintain, update, and validate the data, but I assume it’s not insignificant. Given the importance of consumer data to corporations and governments, there are likely thousands of similar databases, and I assume that many people are regularly involved in creating, updating, validating, and analyzing them.

Data analysis is grounded in statistics, with more sophisticated tools and techniques available for analyzing larger datasets. Every college student should be required to take statistics, and I recommend more advanced analytics courses to anyone seeking to understand how to assess large amounts of data. With larger and larger datasets, we shouldn’t make decisions based on medians or means without the tools to understand projected trends and variances.

Whether inside or outside the office, we should be wary of decision makers seeking to implement change by using often-misleading averages when the nuances of the data tell us something else. Understanding the basics of statistics and data analytics ultimately makes us better citizens as well. Taking the time to learn more than the basics provides us with more career opportunities as the data collected by corporations and government agencies continues to increase exponentially.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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