Avoiding the toaster at the CILIP Employers Forum: artificial intelligence and libraries

On the 20th November 2018 I attended the CILIP Employers Forum. One of the talks was by Terry Corby on “Avoiding the Toaster! Meeting the challenge of disruptive innovation”. The toaster in the title was alluding to the idea that if we fail to deal with disruptive innovation, we will become “toast”.

Terry argued that automation is already here:

  • “60% of occupations could have 30% or more of their activities automated with current technology”
  • 20% of a CEO’s activities could be automated now
  • The cost benefits are between three and ten times the investment. Only human factors prevent it happening.
  • AI solutions tend to work best when they have a human element as well.

Examples he gave of good disruption were:

Many companies foresaw future disruption but failed to capitalise:

  • Kodak invented digital photography
  • Xerox invented the Graphical User Interface and the computer mouse.

Among Terry’s suggestions for how to operate in this environment were:

  • Seek out stakeholders who will insist on innovation.
  • Find out what your customer really wants and values.
  • Work on many innovations, expecting that most will fail, but some may greatly succeed.
  • Create a culture that encourages innovation and learning.
  • Completely master new skills if you can, or recognise when you can’t.
  • Be an outsider in new areas, not just an insider in your own.

Established companies are often at a disadvantage because they don’t recognise the threat and fear cannibalising their business

The challenge Terry laid down to librarians was that we had allowed search engines to roll over us, would we do the same for artificial intelligence? He doesn’t know our field and so had no answers, but he did call us to think these issues through for ourselves, and then we will avoid someone “eating our breakfast”.

Now over to you: what do you think? Leave a comment below.

Stephen Ayre

2 thoughts on “Avoiding the toaster at the CILIP Employers Forum: artificial intelligence and libraries

  1. I’m doing a lit search on deep learning and how it will impact ophthalmology, dermatology and stroke scans in future. The results look really promising and I’ve seen quite a number of authoritative sources suggesting AI can take over routine medical scanning within the next 5-10 years, freeing up the experts’ time to focus on the more complex images (given the national shortage in radiologists). In the interim, I certainly see a role for librarians in highlighting how advances like this can have a positive impact on Trusts.

    I went to a one-day conference hosted by NICE and remember they were talking about using machine learning to help reduce the amount of time spent doing systematic reviews. It was fascinating, but what I mostly took away from that particular session was again using computers to do the drudgery work while freeing up the specialist to provide other added benefit.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that AI is an opportunity we should be embracing and made to work for us, not against us.

  2. I am interested to know what role people think libraries & librarians think what we will be doing in this area n the future. If indeed there is a future for us in this area!

    For instance – Perhaps we will have a role to play in supporting Open Source AI, moving away from corporate underpinning, could librarians use information literacy to guard against unconscious bias in AI datasets?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *