'Watson's Law' will rival Moore's Law, claims Ginni Rometty in AI keynote

Doug Woodburn
clock • 3 min read

Ginni Rometty claims AI will enable business to improve on an exponential curve, an event that has only happened two other times in the last 60 years

AI will provide the world with a third moment of "exponential impact" to rival Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told an audience of start-ups this morning.

Following on stage French president Emmanuel Macron at VivaTech!, Rometty claimed the data and AI "revolution" currently afoot represents a moment that occurs only once every 25 years.

Her keynote this morning comes after IBM yesterday pledged to create 1,800 new jobs in France.

"If you think back in history over the last 60 years, there have only been two times when technology has allowed businesses to improve on an exponential curve, instead of just linear," Rometty said.

"It was once something called Moore's Law - that chips and processing would double every 18 months. That led to the automation of everything as we know it.

"Then there was something called Metcalfe's law. Technically, it says the value of a network is equal to the square of the nodes on the network. That is what gave rise to the platform companies, be it Facebook or Google.

"I think everyone would say those two moments in time have profoundly changed life as we know it. But I would tell you that we stand one more time at another exponential moment. Here's the formula: think of all the data in the world, add tools like AI, and what companies and people will be able to do is have exponential learning, and if you have exponential learning it is the ultimate competitive advantage: you will outlearn other people."

Rometty joked that this new ‘law' might one day be referred to as ‘Watson's Law' as she gave some examples of how IBM's AI was being used to help companies and society "outlearn".

This includes France's Orange Bank, which she claimed is using AI and Watson to do 50 per cent of its interactions, and Woodside Energy in Australia, which she said has cut safety incidents by 25 per cent because it is using AI to learn from its past. She also talked about the impact of AI on farmers in Africa and India.

Rometty announced that IBM is investing $30m in prizes and training in a new competition for developers called ‘Call for Code', which it is running in partnership with the Red Cross and the United Nations.

The aim is to address some of the world's toughest challenges, starting this year with national disasters.

"We are going to pick a set of winners this October and we will introduce those winners to the VC community," she explained. "IBM is committing to take those solutions - the things you build - and will deploy them around the countries that need those natural disaster response systems," she said.

Rometty also announced that IBM is sharing its principles of trust and transparency to counter any concerns critics may harbour around data.

This includes three principles around AI, namely that those building AI should always have the purpose of augmenting - not replacing - man, that the data and insights that come out of AI should belong to the owner, and that AI should be transparent and explainable.

"These are all principles we've lived by for decades, but we thought we could do some good by making them public," she said.

"It's wonderful talking about AI, but it will only happen if there is trust in these technologies. On the one hand, data is the opportunity of our time and - in the words of president Macron - it is also the challenge of our time. Tomorrow, in Europe, GDPR goes into effect, so some governments are taking action, but this is not something you can only regulate - this has to be as much about behaviour."

A stream from the conference can be viewed live here.

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