SXSW 2015 Panel Recap: Big Data and AI Need Each Other And You Need Both

On Friday, March 13th at the ACL Live at Moody Theater, four panelists recognized for their cutting-edge careers in the big data and artificial intelligence space came together to discuss several topics ranging from the future of big data to how AI is being used transform healthcare, retail and the industrial internet.  

The panel discussion “Big Data and AI Need Each Other and You Need Both” featured prominent panelists Amir Husain of SparkCognition, Maher Masri of McKinsey & Company, Manoj Saxena of The Entrepreneur’s Fund, and moderator Michael Stewart of Lucid Holdings.

Michael Stewart of Lucid Holdings set the conversation in motion by asking the panelists for a distinct definition of big data and AI, stating that if we’re going to change the world with something we should have a clear understanding of what each of these terms actually mean.

Maher Masri of McKinsey & Company defined big data as “data so large that it requires new technology or analytical techniques to be useful or insightful” and AI as “any intelligence that a machine demonstrates that can reason, make decisions, engage in language or dialogue.”

Manoj Saxena of The Entrepreneur’s Fund made it clear that his focus is “not on big data, but on big outcomes,” and when it comes to AI it’s not “man vs. machine, it’s man plus machine.”

To help the audience get a better understanding of how big data and AI is being applied, moderator Michael Stewart encouraged the panelists to serve up examples that would showcase how big data and AI are being used to transform their respective industries.

With McKinsey’s recent investment in big data and AI, Masri offered a recent client story where he helped a global retailer drive $850M in sales in just a matter of 10 months leveraging big data and AI. Saxena described how big data was used to help drive less pediatric patients to the ER by predicting asthma outbreaks using combined data from Google,, ZocDoc and the CDC.  And lastly, Husain revealed that his company was able to help a multibillion pump manufacturer go from one hour of prescience to five days using SparkCognition’s algorithm, which then allowed them to take appropriate action to help prevent a disaster.

Stewart asked the panelists to give the audience a flavor of what to expect in the next few years when it comes to big data and AI.

Husain stated that there are massive inefficiencies in the energy space and in the aviation space and AI will lead us to safer transport, more transport and lower energy costs. He asserted that “the future of AI is the future of the human race.”