Tech for good: Here’s why AWS’ Andy Jassy is betting big on AI and Blockchain
AI may be coming in for a lot of flak, but AWS CEO Andy Jassy believes the technology - if used responsibly - can help humans make better decisions.
He started out working as a “shadow” to Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, but Andy Jassy has come into his own. Andy, CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), has grown the cloud computing business to a $27 billion ARR. Amazon may be big, but AWS, which has ratcheted up a massive fan following in the builder community, holds bigger potential.
AWS has a worldwide presence today, helping run biggies like Vodafone, Airbnb, Yelp, Slack, Netflix, and countless other corporates and startups. In India, 90 percent of startups are on AWS. The reason is simple: cloud lets companies operate cheaply and scale rapidly as it does away with the need to buy expensive servers.
But that hasn’t stopped Andy and his team from innovating on the cloud. He strongly believes that people use the cloud to bring “agility in customer experience”. Even Kishore Biyani, CEO of Future Group, partnered with Jeff Bezos because he believed it would help enhance customer experience.
On the sidelines of re:Invent2018, where he launched 22 new AWS services, Andy spoke to select press members about auditing artificial intelligence, Blockchain, and building ethics and protection into reinforcement learning. Edited excerpts of the interview:
YourStory: Across the world, there’s a growing clamour to audit AI. What are your thoughts?
Andy Jassy: Our goal is to listen to customers and focus on what they want to solve. With machine learning and AI, we are offering these services based on what our customers want. There is a lot of good happening thanks to AI, be it fighting human trafficking and improving educational services. At the moment, there are no reports on AI being abused. Yes, there are people who can do bad things with these technologies. But, we are with people who want to solve things. I feel algorithms should be iterating and as accurate as possible. For example, training a facial recognition engine to recognise celebrity photos is easy. But when the same application is used applied for law enforcement you need highly confidential and strong systems because of the sheer complexity. I agree that AI’s recommendations should not be the sole decision maker; but, in the end, it helps humans make better decisions.
Algorithms must be benchmarked; AWS and several companies that we work with agree that AI should be benchmarked. At the end of the day, countries have to decide standards, regulations and guidance when it comes to AI. We have to participate in education and be responsible. We have our own user policies and won't allow companies to use our services if people’s civil liberties are taken for granted.
YS: Are developers building ethics on top of your services?
AJ: Building ethics and protection into reinforcement learning is important for builders. Our AI and machine learning capabilities are used by our builders to create secure applications and solutions. But, apart from us, society and countries should make rules on data protection. We will build features respecting those rules and laws. AI is creating several useful cases. We announced DeepLens last year for builders to use computer vision and create all kinds of applications using the camera. This year, DeepRacer has been launched for developers to build simulated autonomous driving modules, which can then be used in our DeepRacer RC Car. These AI modules are given to help our developer community to innovate and create.
YS: What are your thoughts on different markets using the cloud?
AJ: Each market is so big and different, and we are growing every quickly. There are a lot of world events impacting business growth. We are growing rapidly in China, India, and Southeast Asia. You have to understand that the cloud is still in the early stage of adoption in the US, which means other markets are 36 months behind on moving to the cloud. The cloud delivers change for customers, and we give them products and solutions after consulting them. Customers want to know that a set of workloads need to be moved to the cloud. People want to know what's wrong with current IT, compare with other options in the market, and know how they want to use those options to solve problems. They come back to us because we give them consistent feedback and they realise that other clouds don't have the same number of offerings and the agility we do. Most of our offerings are built listening to our clients and customers.
YS: You have finally launched Blockchain services. Tell us about the two products.
AJ: Organisations are looking at this in two formats - centralised and decentralised ledgers. They want transparency through cryptography logs; it is a good way to solve a business transaction like managing inventory and the supply chain. Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed service that allows you to set up and manage a scalable Blockchain network with just a few clicks. It eliminates the overheads required to create the network, and automatically scales to meet the demands of thousands of applications running millions of transactions. Once your network is up and running, our Blockchain makes it easy to manage and maintain your Blockchain network. It manages your certificates, lets you easily invite new members to join the network, and tracks operational metrics such as usage of compute, memory, and storage resources. In addition, Managed Blockchain can replicate an immutable copy of your Blockchain network activity into Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB), a fully managed ledger database. This allows you to easily analyse the network activity outside the network and gain insights into trends.