Honorary Professor John Zakos shares his thoughts on how AI could be used in the future.
Dr John Zakos
John Zakos has been dreaming about talking and thinking machines for most of his life. Captivated by computers since childhood, he built a chatbot for a year 9 school assignment. He went on to co-found AI company Cognea and created a breakthrough conversational virtual assistant for Australian businesses during the mid-noughties. Interest from IBM led to an acquisition in 2014.
As Program Director of Virtual Agents, Dr Zakos and his team are working on Watson, IBM’s AI for enterprise—specifically in conversation interaction and delivering AI-based customer service solutions globally. By the end of 2017, Watson has reportedly interacted with over one billion people. Dr Zakos also inspires and advises students and staff on innovation as an Honorary Professor at the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT. He believes two traits are essential for people who want to make an impact in the world.
You can read books and learn all day, but if you’re not dreaming and imagining things, you’re not doing much in terms of innovating for the future.
In fact, Dr Zakos was imagining a new type of university a few years ago at IBM New York, when colleague Michael Blumenstein came for a visit. It was a university based on a strong entrepreneurial culture. “Students would end up starting ventures and companies as a part of their experience.” Professor Blumenstein, then recently appointed at UTS as Associate Dean (Research) at the Faculty of Engineering and IT, was enthusing about innovation and a commercially-minded approach the faculty and university were fostering. A partnership was destined to follow.