This interview is part of our AI in Your Community series. 

Katherine Barr

Katherine Barr

 A few weeks ago, I spoke with Founding Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners, Katherine Barr, about ideas that disrupt markets. Katherine is a board member for WorkFusion, an automation platform that uses artificial intelligence as a superpower to reduce time and costs spent on rote and repetitive enterprise tasks and elevate people to complete more advanced, creative work instead.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are quickly becoming the latest kind of technology for companies to invest in and be invested for. My conversation with Katherine unveiled the thinking in venture capital, now, to leverage AI in the workplace so that people are able to solve more complex business, community and societal problems.

Tara Chklovski: What do you think makes a good problem in your line of work?

Katherine Barr: In the world of venture, the types of problems we like to tackle are things that are not just incremental innovation but are truly disruptive and will shift whatever industry the company is in. For example, my company WorkFusion is leveraging machines to automate data entry at banks. It used to take about 20 days to onboard all of a customer’s information into one of its banking customer’s systems, and now this can be done in about five minutes. [Banks can instead use that time to focus on customer service or building new product offerings.]

TC: How do you think AI will help strengthen societies and communities?

KB: AI will do a lot of the menial, repetitive work, so it actually enables humans to do the more interesting, creative, and innovative work. It has many positive impacts itself, too, such as AI’s pattern matching to better predict diseases as well as outcomes based on particular treatments and matching patients to the right kinds of treatments. We just need to make sure that as we are getting deeper into pure AI, that we maintain very careful boundaries around ethical issues.

TC: Yes, I heard somewhere that the majority of software engineers creating AI haven’t even taken an ethics class.

KB: The jobs that are going to be available and the skill set required from human beings into the future are certainly shifting. So, while we have companies that are automating work, we also have companies that are helping to train people for the jobs of the future. Two such companies are HotChalk and GreenFig, the latter of which is training workers in applied digital tools across marketing, sales, and other key functional areas. In the future, as the manual work gets automated, we will need people who are creative and collaborative, who show thought leadership, curiosity and who are flexible in terms of learning and problem solving. The word I’ve heard a lot to describe a required skill for the future is “resiliency” — workers who are extremely flexible and creative, and who are comfortable with digital platforms and products.

TC: Exactly, that is a big part of why Iridescent is doing the AI Family Challenge. A lot of mothers, in particular, are working age but out of the workforce. What we have found is that through family learning, you are building the self-efficacy of the parent and helping them access online learning.

KB: It is quite satisfying to play a supporting role in shifting the world and having a positive impact through leveraging these innovative and cutting-edge technologies.

Katherine and I agree that AI can be leveraged for good: to empower people with the kinds of skills that they will need for tomorrow’s workforce. With AI Together, we at Iridescent are excited to join others in using AI for learning that will shape our leaders of tomorrow. Find out more.