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Chris Smith: How to think about adding AI to your product

Chris Smith: How to think about adding AI to your product

Mental models to get your head around AI options.

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Chris Smith is a longtime engineering leader who has been in the trenches of building with AI & machine learning for years. He’s led the development of data systems & strategies at tech giants like early Google, Yahoo, and Sun; S&P 500's like Live Nation; and a wide variety of startups.

In this conversation, we dive into a key topic that I’ve avoided until now: AI. AI is an enabling technology that’s essential to develop a baseline understanding of so you can be informed enough to reason about it.

We talk about:

  • what AI really is (versus machine learning, or applied statistics)

  • how to build a mental model so you can reason about AI options

  • how to think about incorporating it into your product and/or operations

We also recorded a short, bonus episode on a simple way to think through the level of investment needed to figure out what AI might do for your product.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Google, Overcast, or Youtube.

Topics discussed

(00:00) AI industry at inflection point, causing chaos

(09:05) Machine learning, neural nets, and generative AI

(14:03) Generative AI: LLMs + broad understanding

(21:56) Open source models improve specialized problem solving

(25:06) Access to data leads to competitive advantage

(32:53) AI training improves productivity and learning speed

(42:51) Reduced investment in GPT models speeds results

(48:47) Expectation mismatch leads to brand perception risks

(53:54) Non-technical work is crucial for AI product success

(57:30) Building a computer vision product from scratch

(01:03:14) A strategic approach to refining and testing prototypes

(01:08:04) Closing learning loops

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