The Last Word: AT&T’s David Williams on the Rapid Rise of AI

“If you think it’s moving fast now, it’s not. This is the school zone.”

David Williams
Assistant VP of Automation
.…on the rapid rise of AI.

Williams was just one of the experts on hand at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s late August Q3 Executive Circle event. Presented by McKesson at AT&T’s Dallas headquarters, the panel focused on the impact of AI on how companies do business and shared practical insights into how companies can navigate and utilize AI.

“This thing is just getting started,” Williams said at the event, expanding on his school-zone metaphor. “Once they get this train set on the track, it will not be an Amtrak. It’s going to be a bullet train. And so I would encourage all of you to embrace it sooner than later, because as the train starts moving faster it might be a little harder to catch on.”

The conversation, which took place in front of business leaders from across the Dallas region, also featured James Harding, AI and machine learning specialist for Google North America; and Sindhu Avalokita, VP of operations at Jacobs. Corbett Guest, president and chief strategy officer of Imaginuity, served as the event’s moderator.

“[The AI revolution] promises to potentially be bigger than the Industrial Revolution, which is a lot to take in,” Guest said at the event. “It’s a big change our society is about to go through.”

The revolution has seemed so revolutionary, it’s caused pushback from many who worry about AI’s potential harmful effects—and need to slow down the “dangerous race” to ever-larger unpredictable black-box AI models.

But at the DRC event, Avalokita said fear shouldn’t be people’s—or companies’—biggest response to AI.

“I think that there’s a lot more fear than excitement in the system,” Avalokita said. “It should be vice versa. And so, I think for leaders and companies, how do you lead people alongside? When you bring people alongside, I think that goes a long way.”

Avalokita believes that can help AI be seen as a way to improve the employee experience, by having it take on day-to-day tasks that keep employees busy so they can spend more time in “think tank” mode.

“Let’s engage employees with the high-value conversations where we need emotional intelligence, judgment, and experience,” Sindhu agreed. “Let the AI tools do the manual stuff for us.”

In a note of caution on another front, Avalokita noted that for AI to be accessible, every U.S. household must have access to reliable, affordable internet.

“Outside of AT&T, we’ve done a lot with trying to close the digital divide,” Williams noted. “There’s a lot of work to be done. We try to provide great internet access, as well as computers and other technology and devices so that folks not only have access to it, but the device to use it. Then we also put workshops in those learning centers so that folks can learn how to use those devices.”

AT&T’s Williams was featured in the 2023 issue of Dallas Innovates Magazine.

You can read more about the DRC event by going here.

For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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