The man who served as a technology advisor to presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Biden reminded the crowd that even with all the risks of AI, from frighteningly realistic voice mimicry to drastically incorrect results when asked how to handle critical tasks, it can be controlled.

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Cast perfectly for a movie adaptation of a book about the downfall of a bleeding-edge Silicon Valley startup that gets too far over its skis, Dr. R. David Edelman offered the Inman Connect New York audience a rapid summary of the benefits, risks and astounding evolutionary growth of the topic du jour, artificial intelligence.

The man who served as a technology advisor to presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Biden reminded the crowd that even with all the risks of AI, from frighteningly realistic voice mimicry to drastically incorrect results when asked how to handle critical tasks, it can be controlled, it’s “just math and code,” he said.

“Artificial intelligence isn’t going to take your job, but someone who knows how to use it might,” he said.

Edelman infuses his intellect with self-effacing barbs about his time in Washington as an awkward caricature of a too-young technology advisor, and his take on AI being a lot like an Ivy League intern, that is, “confident, articulate, but mostly full of it.”

A lot of what today’s consumers are using is “vanill-AI,” according to Edelman, but that doesn’t take away from giving us what he deems “superpowers.”

A school in Southern California designed to accommodate low-income remedial students  — some homeless — was able to advance one class’s performance by two years in six months after exchanging traditional books with AI-enhanced tablets.

“The city of Boston was able to save 200,000 pounds of CO2 per day just by using machine learning to predict and [execute] better routes, and pretty farther afield, AI has been used to take endangered fish that were having trouble finding a mate and shooting them into a different part of the river so they can spawn,” he said.

Medical professionals at Johns Hopkins and the University of Iowa used AI to analyze years of surgical records to help reduce instances of post-surgery sepsis, which has a 40 percent mortality rate, by identifying its early signs.

“They were able to bring instances of sepsis down by up to 80 percent,” Edelman said. “And this is all vanilla AI.”

The thing about AI, he said, is that once it works, we stop calling it AI. As it moves its way deeper into our everyday lives, the way we interact with it will change.

“Let’s face it, keyboards and mice are pretty awkward, right?” He even mentioned how mobile phones aren’t nearly as ergonomic as our obsession with them suggests.

In December of last year, cultured human brain cells were attached to a chip that was able to perform a basic form of speech recognition, Edelman said.

Edelman presented a chart of common objects — a stuffed bear, a train, a park path — shown to a person while in an MRI machine and the resulting AI’s interpretation of what the individual was seeing. The results, while muddled, were impressive. The takeaway is that we’re not far from AI being able to read our minds.

Software without consistent human interaction is already finding its way into the industry. Using voice AI assistants, for example, users can ask a CRM to list any leads that came in overnight or to check in on the status of an inspection using only a small typed request. The need for logins, choosing menus or finding functions might soon be unnecessary.

What remains critical for now, however, is that the real estate industry needs to not fear what is coming, but it absolutely must be open to facing it.

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