Highlights from Day 1 of the #BigDataTO Conference #BigData #AI


I’ll admit I didn’t have high hopes. How good could a free conference about big data and artificial intelligence be? Especially if the upgrade tickets, which I so frugally declined, were only $75? Well, I was pleasantly surprised.

Let’s deal with the negatives first. The morning registration line was long and it took some people 30 minutes o get through it. The exhibition hall was small with not nearly as many vendors as I am used to seeing at conferences. There was no free wifi in the main hall (um, admission was free so why do we deserve free wifi too?). Sometimes the sessions were so packed, there wasn’t even room to stand. And, some speakers didn’t even show up because, well, airplanes.

However, those negatives were completely washed aside with the positives. Some of the talks were quite good. Some of the speakers were quite good. The topics were quite good. They gave out free conference programs. And did I say free? Some free things are worth what you paid for them. This one was worth a lot more. I highly advise you to go and it’s definitely on my 2018 conference schedule as time well spent.

So, here are a few tidbits of knowledge from a bunch of different speakers that intrigued me today.

  • Data science is often handled at the tail-end of a project. We only take the time to learn what happened after the fact and when it’s too late to do anything about the current situation. We need to do a better job of using our data for the future – for segmentation, targeting, to understand what our customers want, to uncover blind spots.
  • Good data scientists care where the data came from, who created it, what it represents. They don’t just take the data and run it through stats programs and spit out reports. It’s not just about statistics and reporting. Data quality must come first.
  • The real money is not in having the data but rather in knowing what questions to ask. Literally everyone has data but only the companies that hire the smart brains to ask the right questions will succeed with big data.
  • You might think using artificial intelligence is very impersonal. On the contrary. It’s impossible for a human being to be personal with hundreds and thousands of people but AI allows you to be far MORE personal  with thousands or millions of people.
  • Computers and artificial intelligence need to learn the senses – for instance, they need to learn to see the types of moles on skin that will become cancer, learn to hear which wheels on a train are cracked and about to cause a train wreck.
  • Algorithms are what make computer see and listen and as such algorithms are the future. Soon, companies will brag about their algorithms not their data.
  • We need to let computers do the pattern recognition so that humans can do the strategizing and reasoning
  • If you want to work with big data but can’t afford it, have no fears. So much software is free and open source. You can do anything you want with free tools so don’t let dollars hold you back from doing or learning.
  • The danger with artificial intelligence is training it with bad, untrustworthy, biased data. We’ve all seen the reports of AI perpetuating racism because the training data contained racist data. You must choose good datasets that are clean and genuinely unbiased and only then will you find success.
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