Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dinner Speech at ICAIL 2009

On June 10, I gave an invited dinner speech at the ICAIL 2009, the Twelfth International Conference on ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and LAW in Barcelona. I never gave an invited talk during dinner at a conference, and the speeches I have seen at other dinners where more funny (and much work to prepare) than serious. However, Dr. Pompeu Casanovas, the Conference Chairman, assured me that at ICAIL people were used to serious dinner speeches.

A few months ago I changed responsibilities from technological strategy to user modelling and profiling, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to an audience of experts in both informatics and law, or, in other words in “privacy”. From a technological point of view, semantic technology is a hot topic at ICAIL and Pompeu asked me to talk about that. I also was aware that the conference attendants were mostly academic researchers from universities and research institutions, and less from industry, and therefore I decided to focus more on the business side than on the technology side.

The title of the talk was “Do semantics matter for business (in large Corporations)”, and the main message I wanted to convey is that –no matter how good or cool it is- it is a complex process to get a new technology adopted in large organizations. There are tens or sometimes even hundreds of other relevant technologies fighting for a place in large corporations. New technologies always involve risk, and large organizations are not always prepared to deal with a lot of technological risk. Moreover, I tried to make clear that innovation is not only about technology, but mostly about customers and business. Customers need to like the product or service, and it needs to be profitable from a business or society point of view, otherwise the technology does not make sense.

Given the fact that I started to talk at 22h00, I didn’t expect a lot of questions. But to my surprise the question session was actually longer than the talk itself. There were basically two types of questions: about privacy and questions rooted in “mindset” differences between academia and business (e.g. how and when do we value the results of research; through publications, patents, or when it is taken up in the market or society?).

The talk can be downloaded here in pdf. Enjoy, and “eet smakelijk”…