As AI becomes important across sectors – and as firms that specialize in the field become particularly valuable – M&A practitioners face the challenge of understanding the technology in order to advise their clients. With the pace of change at an all-time high, it raises the question of whether deal professionals must become life-long learners to keep pace.
In order to find out how AI is being used in the deal process and how proficient dealmakers need to be in order to successfully implement and evaluate the technology, Toppan Vintage commissioned Mergermarket to interview five experts in the industry.
Toppan Vintage question: What challenges have you personally had working with AI, and how did you overcome them? Leading industry experts weigh in...
Natalie Pierce, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson says: I try to keep up with every new technology that our clients are test-driving, and it's an ongoing challenge. Really, it’s like drinking water through a fire hose. We dig deep into these technologies and how they would impact our clients because they have questions, and we need to be able to answer them with an informed perspective. We want to help our clients stay competitive and legally compliant at a time when regulations are unable to keep pace with technology.
Taking the time to study not only AI as used in the legal practice and in workplaces but also fields such as robotics – in which AI is often ingrained – is extremely gratifying. We’ve entered a new frontier, and I enjoy being part of the discussion and part of a practice group helping implement solutions. In the course of a single week, I may be asked to advise on topics ranging from the use of biometrics in the workplace, pilot testing of safe driving applications, and the deployment of exoskeletons.
As more of these questions come up, it's an opportunity for us as a firm. Sometimes there will be a tool that we haven't looked at, and that’s a great opportunity to learn to ask the right questions and come up with the best practices. So if the goal is reduced incidents of worker's compensation claims by using exoskeletons, for example, you have to make sure that everything is thought through in terms of training and communication, so that you don’t end up with the opposite result of increased workplace injuries.
Dean Harvey, Partner, Perkins Coie weighs in: I was lucky in that I majored in computer science as an undergraduate, and my first job after graduating was in research and development, including building artificial intelligence solutions. I worked on expert systems during the ’80s, and then did some research into machine learning as it was developing, and did the same for deep learning around 2006. When clients began acquiring AI solutions, in order to advise them, I dug into the topic by reviewing various white papers and other sources, just to make sure I was up to date on the current technology and understood what would happen with it. But overall, I continued learning as needed, and as the technology evolved.
Troy Ungerman, Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright adds: I would say it’s important to keep in mind that AI is really not much more than plain-old statistics. The term “intelligence” is a bit of a misnomer that implies the reasoning and intentionality of which only sentient beings are capable. The key challenge for most people who are scared off by the concept of AI is to overcome their fear by getting some very basic exposure to statistics. “Artificial intelligence” will soon be known by its true term, which is simply “software.”
The challenges I have encountered relate to my desire to understand more fully how AI works, and understanding complex algorithms and the infrastructure used by AI systems, such as deep learning and neural networks. In attempting to overcome the challenges, I have spoken with technologists, watched AI primer videos and attended in-firm learning sessions.
Noah Waisberg, CEO, Kira Systems adds: As a company, it took us a lot longer than expected to build our software. We started in January 2011 with my co-founder and me, and we never took outside financing, because we thought it would take us four months to build, then six months, and then two years or longer. I would say that characterizes the typical artificial intelligence software’s development.
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Artificial Intelligence Enters the Mainstream
Find out how AI is being used in the deal process and how proficient dealmakers