Exclusive Talk with Nigel Willson, Global Strategist @ Microsoft


Nige WillsonAbout Nigel WillsonFor nearly twenty years Nigel has been at Microsoft helping clients to write the future, most recently as Global Strategist with a focus on innovation and near future trends. He is a frequent speaker at events on artificial intelligence & respected social media contributor on AI / ML & tech topics.


Asif: What do you predict will be some of the biggest business opportunities & industries affected by Artificial Intelligence?

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Nigel: Artificial Intelligence has already become so pervasive it is in every industry and locality in the world is some shape or form, I think the opportunity is making truly a transformative technology by making it available to everyone.

By democratising AI, we can make it accessible to consumers / business users through embedding it into the applications that they use on a daily basis (like office productivity applications) for language translation, transcription (voice to text) and digital personal assistants.

If I was pull out one industry to watch it would be Healthcare – there is massive opportunities through use of AI in Healthcare that would bring direct benefit to all of us.

Asif: What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started your profession? How did you get interested in Artificial Intelligence?

Nigel: I wish someone had told me about the exponential nature of the technology we are creating and to prepare for a wild ride, the rate of change and disruption is really gathering pace and showing no signs of slowing – at the start of my career I thought it was something I would learn and be done, but we live in the times of the Contunual Learner.

I have been interested in AI for a long time, back when algorithms were plotting routes on Sat Navs using the A* algorithm, the advances have been massive since then, but we are excitingly still in AI infancy, there is plenty more to come !

Asif: Many people believe that Artificial Intelligence could bring the apocalypse, what are your views?

Nigel: Personally I believe AI will become incredibly powerful, but a tool like any other – I don’t believe we will see sentience or the singularity in my lifetime, but frankly I would be a fool to say it would never happen ! Like all tools in the wrong hands it could do incredibly bad things, but the possibility of all the good that could be done encourages me – as does the recent interest from governments and politicians in making sure the right policies and controls are in place – and more importantly there is now lots of public discussion and debate which is much needed, as awareness is key.

Asif: What books have influenced your thoughts the most?

Nigel: So many – from popular scifi writers like Philip K Dick and Isaac Asimov to contemporary futurists like Thomas Frey and Ray Kurzweil

Recently I have read Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark , Surviving AI by Calum Chase and Non-obvious Trends 2018 by Rohit Bhargava – all great books for different reasons

Asif: What advice would you give startups when starting their journey in Artificial Intelligence?

Nigel: Firstly don’t try and be an AI start-up – there are already too many with too vague a mission – look for a business problem to solve and look to see if AI can enhance or improve your solution.

Secondly, don’t create unless you have too, consume what there is – there are already lots of commodity solutions and API’s you can use and Cloud services give you access to them at incredibly low cost (or sometimes free) – try to use as much commodity AI services as you can and build your value proposition on top.

Asif: What are your views about MarkTechPost?

Nigel: MarkTechPost is a great place to go to get great info and insights, it one of several places I bookmark to look for content to reshare. I like the way you get insight and not just content re-share too, people value opinion and commentary rather than just re-share.




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