IBM CEO Sees Netscape Moment in AI and Powerful Future of Quantum Computing | WRAL TechWire

DURHAM Arvind Krishna has always embraced curiosity. From an early age, he took things apart and put them back together to figure out how they worked. His interests led him to engineering and he eventually earned a PhD. and a job at IBM.

Krishna’s curiosity didn’t stop at scientific research, he told Dean Bill Boulding of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as a guest on the school’s Distinguished Speakers series. Instead, Krishna said the longer he’s been with IBM, the more curious he’s become about the business aspects of bringing a successful product to market. Krishna said his desire to learn led him to management and leadership roles and eventually CEO and president of IBM.

I would call it an evolutionary journey, Krishna said, not just something that was somehow structured and built upon it.

Krishna said a commitment to continuous learning has become an essential ingredient for leadership as technology continues to reinvent work, and he expects even more transformative innovation in the decade ahead.

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A Netscape moment in artificial intelligence

Krishna said we are in a Netscape moment referring to the web browser that made the internet widely known in the 1990s with ChatGPT putting artificial intelligence into the public sphere alike.

AI and ChatGPT today are something of a 30-year-old overnight wonder, Krishna said. There’s a lot of things in technology like that, they look like overnight wonders, but it’s been 30 years of hard work.

In 2010, IBM introduced Watson, an AI computer system that can answer questions asked in natural language. In 2011, Watson gained international fame by beating human contestants on the game show Jeopardy. Krishna said the deep learning technology that powered Watson had limitations.

The problem was, you still needed really experienced people to label the data, which meant you couldn’t really scale it, Krishna said. There was a cost to everything you did.

Krishna said that ChatGPT’s technology using large language models and generative AI does not have the same work constraints.

I know Generative AI really gets all the buzzits, I think large language models, is probably the real breakthrough, Krishna said. For your first time, you don’t need a lot of humans to train (the algorithms), that’s a huge plus.

Krishna said that while he wishes IBM had been able to advance the technology behind Watson closer to where AI is today, he is pleased to see the innovation happening in the space.

Now, with the big language models, we have another opportunity, Krishna said. This is one where we fortunately get to do a repeat.

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The potential of quantum computing

Krishna said he believes quantum computers, which use the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems larger than the capacity of current computers, will provide a major transformation.

This decade, one of them will solve a problem that will make people flinch and say wow, said Krishna. I think the day that happens any group of countries or companies will run away with a huge head start.

Krishna said that getting to that moment will also depend on bringing people from multiple disciplines together, including business. Krishna believes business minds will be especially critical in determining the right use cases for quantum computing.

So, you have to work on what kind of algorithms, what use case can leverage those algorithms and the technology, Krishna said, And that’s the kind of excitement there is here.

Krishna said quantum computers can also have positive environmental impacts by using less energy for intensive computing such as cryptocurrency mining. Krishna also believes that quantum computing will eventually lead to better security with better encryption.

Today’s cryptography I will boldly predict will be cracked by quantum computing, Krishna said. Now you can discuss when.

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Leadership philosophy that embraces layoffs

Krishna said the people who spearhead innovations like quantum computing will possess three qualities: continuous learning, grit, and excellent communication skills. He believes that these three qualities are also needed by all employees today.

Krishna said leaders must be committed to doing what’s right for the organization, even if it means speaking with an unpopular point of view. He told the story of an experience 20 years ago when he turned to a mentor about not feeling listened to by a leader. The mentor asked Krishna why he wasn’t articulating his case more directly to the leader, and Krishna said he was afraid of being fired. The mentor explained that Krishna should adopt the view that being fired was better than not pushing for something he truly believed in.

If you live every day in the pleasure of being fired, then it’s incredibly liberating. Then you can always do the right thing, Krishna said. Don’t do it just for the love of optics, do it because you really believe in it.

Krishna said that employees who possess that loud-voiced authenticity will also have the organizations best interest in mind.

In the end, I firmly believe in my heart and brain that merit and the right idea carry a lot of weight, Krishna said. But you have to be persistent and it needs to be made clear to the organization that you are not doing this for personal gain because that is when people are wary of a very strong point of view.

(C) Duke University

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