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The Doom Merchants can Move Over

New Zealand’s own AI ‘overlord’ has shrugged off the doom merchants and believes it’s the right technology at the right time for some industries, writes Nick Smith.

27 May 2024

Artificial intelligence has a public relations problem; there’s is no shortage of mainstream media shock-horror headlines about the looming AI apocalypse.

Last year, billionaire George Soros claimed AI was “impossible for ordinary human intelligence to fully comprehend” and impossible to regulate, but there would also be powerful incentives to cheat – and any regulations would be almost unenforceable.

Al Jazeera reports on the real-world misapplications of AI, outlining how AI processes have declined loans, club memberships and jobs, often due to nuances that humans would easily pick up.

Even the tech media has played its alarmist role in scaring the public, perhaps best typified by Wired magazine’s recent cover story: “Dear AI Overlords, Don’t F*ck This Up”.

New Zealand’s own AI overlord, Tim Warren, shareholder, founder and former CEO of Ambit AI, shrugs at the doom merchants as if to suggest the media are making the sector seem far sexier than it deserves.

Even investors are not immune from the excitement generated by AI, he says.

The ‘cool’ factor

Warren detects a lack of seriousness from investors in AI, suggesting private investors are more interested in the “cool” factor of the industry, with money a secondary concern.

“There’s an element of group-think going on in the investor community, with private investors following each other’s lead in their investment decisions,” he notes. “There’s a celebrity allure to AI and start-up technology, which is not always supported by market fundamentals.”

He also has a gripe about investors’ short-term focus in the technology industry and start-ups in particular.

“I’ve invested a lot in this sector, and I don’t ask for that money back when the road to profitability proves longer. If I can, I invest again because you need to build these companies up if they are to succeed.”

Investors need to be comfortable with the risk inherent in start-up financing, he says. If the risk is too high for your personal taste, his advice is don’t invest.

Ambit AI is a conversational AI platform used by some of New Zealand and Australia’s largest organisations across industries to ensure customers “are always having the right conversation at the right time,” as the marketing blurb goes.

Ambit AI’s technology is practical and designed to solve real-world problems and provide organisations, particularly those which are human-resource deficient, with easy-to-use solutions for their businesses.

It is the right technology at the right time.

“All companies and public organisations are struggling with the cost of customer relationship management, resourcing the quality interaction with clients that they need,” Warren says.

“All companies will be automating over the next decade. AI is a huge growth area; it’s happening, and Ambit AI has a definite early-mover advantage by being right at the beginning of it.”

Health sector

He is particularly passionate about the potential impact of his technology on the important health sector, public and private.

Front-line staff, specialists, back-room analysis and administrative support are all overwhelmed by public demand for their services, he says.

In health, the GP sector in particular is in crisis at a time when public funding for this essential service is at a premium.

Medicine, says Warren, is an evidence-based, information-rich sector tailor-made for AI applications.

Ambit AI is partnering with GPs and medical centres around the country to develop bespoke AI solutions to the myriad of issues faced.

Warren says AI will play an essential role in reducing the workload of frontline staff, managing patient requirements, improving triage response and increasing the efficacy of New Zea; health’s diagnostic capabilities.

Kiwis expect and deserve a first-world health service, with access for all citizens, not just those who can afford private insurance, Warren says.

“These are fundamental rights and the government’s ability to fund the growing demand for health sector services is increasingly constrained,” he says. “This is not a New Zealand problem; it’s a global issue affecting every country on Earth and requiring an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ response, especially from the technology sector.”

Massive challenges

“I’m incredibly excited about the future of Ambit AI technology, and our competitors and the companies to come, in solving these massive challenges,” he says. “If we can play a role in improving the professional lives of health sector workers, then that will be a job well done.”

Tim Warren is no longer operationally involved in Ambit AI, but he remains a strong supporter of the company and the wider AI industry. He is now an independent tech and AI commentator and presenter.

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