Shop Talk: Why AI Is Not Another Crypto

June 16, 2023

In this bonus episode, Eric and Kostas chat about all things AI.


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Eric Dodds 00:03
Welcome to The Data Stack Show. Each week we explore the world of data by talking to the people shaping its future. You’ll learn about new data technology and trends and how data teams and processes are run at top companies. The Data Stack Show is brought to you by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. You can learn more at Welcome to The Data Stack Show ShopTalk where Kostas and I talk shop. Kostas, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these. Lots has happened. I have a new baby in my household. So that’s kept me away from the microphone for a little bit. But this is exciting.

Kostas Pardalis 00:40
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I miss restyling with you. So let’s do it again.

Eric Dodds 00:46
Okay, this was the question on my mind, which is a broad topic and kind of sounds cliche. We actually haven’t talked a lot about AI. In terms of the latest hype, right? I mean, we’ve talked a lot about, we’ve talked a lot about ml ops. And we’ve talked to some extent about, you know, sort of AI applications at scale with several guests, but those tend to be more technical conversations around why ML is difficult, right? We’ve touched on the ethical, which is interesting. But LLM is our you know, it seemed like overnight, they went from being something that was kind of cool to something that, you know, there are all these blog posts about, you know, there’s petitions being signed by Elon Musk. You know, Sam Altman’s talking to Joe Rogan. Andreessen Horowitz is saying, you know, this is going to save the world, other people saying it’s gonna burn the world down. What do you think about this? I’ve actually been wanting to add, I almost texted you this the other day, but I was like, oh, we need to talk on the phone. What do you think about it?

Kostas Pardalis 02:01
Yeah, I’m thinking about dates. How I think or how I feel, it’s like, two different things. What necessarily, like, aligned?

Eric Dodds 02:14
Me how a lot of people actually that’s probably a pretty articulate way to explain a lot of people like how do I think about this? How do I feel about this? Maybe? This? Yeah.

Kostas Pardalis 02:23
Yeah. I think like, first of all, the problem with like, what is happening right now, like with AI is that I think it is like a kind of like hype fatigue that people out there especially like after, like, the crypto craziness, right, like so. We had like these. So revolutionary thing coming that is going like to change everything, like democracies are going to change banks are going to change. Everyone’s going to be a multi millionaire, like, whatever. And suddenly, like everything collapses, right. And we just have many people going to the court, right? So I think like, people, it’s a it’s interesting, because, you know, you have like these experience and immediately like as you still like experience that you get into like, an extreme type of cancer with AI. And then you’re like, is this different? Is it the same? Because you kind of hear that, right? Like, they’re like people saying, oh, it’s the same thing. Like it’s at the end? Yeah. Like, people are like overselling this thing. And at the end, it’s going to be okay, right. Same thing, but like as crypto right, like, what is the use case on the end? Yeah, what are we going to do? Now, if you want my opinion, like, I don’t think it’s the same thing. It’s quite different. I don’t know. I don’t, I’m not sure that like we have figured out yet, like, what exactly you would say the source of the value is going to be and how it’s going to be delivered. But at the same time, I think that’s like the five also shared the whole. I agree. Like, it’s almost like Iona like I’ll feel like almost I want to advise people to just quick quick quips, sorry, Twitter, like don’t listen to the people they’re like, it’s like, no, don’t do that to yourself. Yeah. Now there are like things that are changing with these technologies that I don’t think we hear that much about them because probably they are like coming from you know, like industries that are a bit boring to most people. You know, anything that has to do like I was talking with people that are doing some amazing stuff like inshore tech, for example, and there’s like a lot of value. Now is this value like going to make humans jobs With no 100% No, like, exhausts, it’s going to be, let’s say different and like, in some ways, much more efficient and to be honest, like much more pleasurable to do your work, right. Like because I like, like mundane tasks, that’s like, okay, like, you don’t like doing Yes, you know. So there’s a lot of hype. I think it’s hard to separate signals from noise. Yeah, I think we are going to see new business models coming out of that stuff. Which is probably something like, like, I’m very curious to see how this is going to emerge. And I’m waiting for the hype to go away. Yeah. So while people started working, and by the way, like, I’ll give you an example, right, like, usually are like anyone talking about self driving cars anymore.

Eric Dodds 05:57
Now that I was actually going to bring it, I’m so glad you brought this up. That face is similar to what I call it and they’re actually some signals that made a lot of people say, Oh, well, this whole thing is over, right? Like, GM shut down, you know, there is lamb or whatever, right. But there’s still companies like Wei Mo’s doing incredible stuff, you know, like,

Kostas Pardalis 06:21
like, Okay, I’m, I mean, in San Francisco, like, if you go out for a walk, like, you’re gonna have to see way, Mo’s and crews like driving on their own, like, all the time. Like, I had, like, my father, like, visiting from Greece, and like, he saw like, a car without, like, a driver. And he was like, What the fuck is this? Yeah, like, you know, like, we take it for granted. But like, it’s like, it’s not the reality, like for the 99.9% of the population out there. And the reason I’m saying that is, is progress is made, but progress. Let’s say real progress happens much slower than the hype cycle. Right? So yeah, of course, like, self driving cars are out there. But it’s not like one day to the next, will substitute everything with like self driving cars, like they need to make sure that, you know, like, they can drive with, without accidents, and they will slowly, you know, roll them out and like, see how they do and at the beginning, it’s going to be like, in more quiet times, and then it’s going to be, you know, like, peak times, like, all these things. So, it’s happening. But like, that’s the thing. Like, that’s like, I think, like part of like human nature, you know, like, we get like, super, super excited, like at the beginning and then like, it’s like, Ah, okay, boring, you know, like, it’s just the car without the driver.

Eric Dodds 07:51
Yeah, sure. Yeah. I agree. I think it’s. Yeah, I think it’s really unfortunate that the timing relative to the crypto hype cycle, and, you know, that baggage just sort of being attached in a lot of people’s minds, I would think, yeah, you know, to AI and MLMs. Because I agree with you, they are fundamentally different. There’s fundamental differences.

Kostas Pardalis 08:25
Yeah. And, you know, like, I think like, the crypto story is like, really bad. Because, you know, like, okay, there are many How to say that, like, bubble bulls, or like, the stories in tech, right. I mean, but it’s one thing when, like, institutional investors lose their money. It’s another thing when, you know, grandmothers and grandfathers lose their money. Yeah. And that kind of shared a lot. Let’s say the fate of life, the broader society has thought it was like technology. Yep. We make fun of the situation, for example, that the end is okay, like, who cares about our work, right? Like, these, like your, I don’t know, like your dad or your uncle, like, no book cares about, like, what happened there. But probably, if you talk to them about crypto, like they’re aware of that, like, they they know, stories of like people who got hit by that because they lost their money. Right? Yeah. But losing the money is one thing. The long term negative effect of VAT is people losing faith, like in progress and decK, right. Yeah. But again, as you said, AI is different. But it’s also early so it’s a win-win situation to figure out what that means, and how we can use it and how we can make it part of our everyday life.

Eric Dodds 09:57
Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I mean, this is a drastic oversimplification. But if you think about the broad impact of these technologies at a baseline level, crypto for the average person sort of encourages some level of speculation, right? I mean, that was the entry point into interacting with cryptocurrency. Right? And, and that’s actually, that’s really sad to me, because the idea around some of the things that blockchain in finance could do is really interesting from a transparency standpoint and digital currencies and stuff, but it centered so heavily on speculation. I mean, not everyone would have said it that way. But like that, the initial experience, whereas with AI and MLMs, what’s really fascinating is that, even on a very micro level, it’s seen as a utility, right? Like, I can ask, I mean, this is such a small thing, but I was like, Man, I’m working on some stubbing out, like a fake data set, and I need 25, like randomly generated alphanumeric keys, you know, it’s like, okay. It, you know, took two seconds, you know, a chat GPT, right, where it’s like, oh, like, Okay, I need to figure out the Google Sheets formula, or, you know, random number, and I forgot the formula, you know, all that sort of stuff. And that’s a very small example. But there’s sort of immediate utility on even a micro scale. With LLM, which is really interesting. And so to me, there’s just a huge amount of interesting potential. And I’m with you, I can’t wait to see after the first round of companies fail, that are building really thin layers on it, knowing that people will figure out how to do it themselves. After all those fail, and then, you know, people start building new business models, it’s going to be fascinating.

Kostas Pardalis 12:00
Yeah. 100%. Like, I mean, what’s like, fundamentally different, it’s like, I think you put it like very well, with a, I end up melting, you’d have something to add. It’s just like, lowering, like the injury tremendously to anything that has to do so they’re acting like with technology, right? I think that was like, probably like the promise also of like, crypto but at the end, like, what it was, like, insane to me with crypto was that, okay, you get something like you get like an instrument of value creation, but on its own is like, extremely complicated, which is investment in financial instruments.

Eric Dodds 12:38
Okay. Yeah. It’s like, I

Kostas Pardalis 12:40
don’t, I don’t understand what’s that? Like, I don’t know. And like, Okay. I’m like, I mean, they have a brain that likes counting, right. And you get, and you mix it with something, which is cryptography. Which, by the way, like, I did study, like, as part of my degree, and like, dude, like, I don’t understand what they’re talking about, like I don’t like it’s, like, meant they come to you. Okay? And they’re like, Okay, let me give you my perspective, like to decide to invest in what I’m building. And they are laying down like in an algorithm that usually goes through like peer reviewing, from like, crypto experts like to figure out if this thing works or not, right? Yeah. So you take, like, a complicated thing with more complicated things it needs. And you give it to everyone. And okay, give it but don’t attach it like their wallet. You

Eric Dodds 13:45
Now, what’s really weird about that? Is that there was a huge meme, emphasis in crypto, right, like Dogecoin. And all of these derivative coins that got created that were essentially like, derived from online memes. And it means, as crazy as it sounds, there are people who made a lot of money when, like, Elon Musk tweeted about Dogecoin because it moved up, like some minuscule, you know, amount, but percentage wise was huge. Right? And it was just, I mean, it obfuscated the complexity and seriousness of this being tied to your actual bank account in a way that I think was really unhealthy. And I mean, you’re a ton of people who lost a lot of money.

Kostas Pardalis 14:31
Well, that’s the thing. What’s happened with crypto is that crypto was like a zero sum game. Yeah, people make money because some other people lost money. Simple as that, like, there’s no but like technology. Right? Like it’s fundamentally a zero. Sorry, a positive sum game. Yeah, like, or at least it should be. Right like it would be something that there is more value generated than what is put into it. Right. Like, that’s why I at least I’m so excited about technology and why I really like working with that and like building stuff. Yeah, with that.

Eric Dodds 15:15
Although I will say if you start Mumford coin, I will invest heavily in Mumford coin.

Kostas Pardalis 15:24
Well, that’s yeah, I don’t know, let’s, I think it’s too late. Like, maybe we need something with Mumford. And then I don’t know, like, I have to think about it. But anyway, go back to AI in the mill.

Eric Dodds 15:38
I have a question for you on AML. I was going there myself. Okay. Okay. Let’s talk about some of the fears around it. And I’m going to draw a comparison for you that I’ve been thinking about recently. So there is a big thread of conversation out there, around AI and MLMs. Around, no one’s going to be able to know what’s real, how do I sort through like, the information, you know, that can generate, you know, all this sort of stuff. And we can talk about the specifics there. But the comparison I wanted to draw was that the actually I feel like Google’s Google, or really just like online search, in general, to me warranted some of the same types of concern, not that, you know, not that the search engine wasn’t trying to mitigate things that were obviously fake, right, like, but there’s so much crap out there on the internet that you can find just by searching, right? I mean, how do you discern what’s real? And of course, the machine is doing some of that for you, like the search engine algorithms doing some of that for you, but it’s like, well, that’s literally like, the LM is doing some of that for you, right. I mean, in some ways, there’s this huge negative reaction. It’s like, well, it’s not like this is a new problem. We’re experiencing it in a new way. And in fact, ironically, like, it’s not like it’s, yeah, it’s not like we’ve not faced this in a new way. And in fact, a lot of the ways that this stuff is being generated, it’s trained on all of the information that’s out there, right, a lot of which not a lot of which some proportion of which, you know, isn’t good information. So what’s your take from that standpoint? I, to me, it’s there’s a, there’s I’m not saying there. I’m not saying we shouldn’t think wisely about how we use technology. But this is not, to me, a new problem that we faced, it’s actually a problem that we’ve faced for a while.

Kostas Pardalis 17:40
Yeah. Let me also tell you my opinion, okay. And, okay, I’ll get like, a little bit like, philosophical at the beginning, but I think it’s important, like, for what, like, I’m going to say about like AI and like, the things that you talked about, okay. Reality, you use, like, the word like real, what is real out there? Right? And like, what I can trust, and how I can figure out what is like real and what is not real? Now, the truth is that, like reality is a construct of the end. Okay? Like, other grades, like, like, big part of what we are experiencing every day, okay? It’s narrated to us. Okay. And that’s not like anything, but I’m not trying to say anything. There’s no conspiracy, what I’m saying like, it’s dark cow, like, humans work, like our brains work, right. And like, how we relate with, like, the environment around us now. There is, although there is a very important thing here. And that’s like, the concept of accountability. Okay. I, even when I interact with you, Eric, like, Okay, I mean, you say something to me, and I trust you, right. What do you say like something about it’s honest. It might be a lie. Right? Yeah. And maybe I find out that someday that like, we’d hold relationship, we had the two of us with like a big light. Right. But I know who is accountable for that? Did you? Yeah, it’s like That’s right. The same thing applies also like with, with Google, right, like, Yeah, but there’s like a legal system. There is like a framework there are like committees that the law look at them, like and try like to regulate them, blah, blah, blah, like all that stuff. Right? And of course, like we get used also to trust them. The problem with with AI is that today, we need like to trust something that doesn’t have a very clear agency in our system, right? It’s not an organization that is legally governed by A specific framework. And we have seen it working and failing and working and failing. And we know how to deal with it when it fails. And when it works, right. It’s not human that we know how to deal with when something like this happens, right? It’s, I don’t know, it’s a bunch of like weights. And we’ll make sure once that thumbs up, like with the outputs, and who is accountable for that? Yeah, let’s say, I, I go to a model and ask it for, like, I don’t like to cure my cancer, right? And it says something, and I decided that like, I’m going to follow that and not the doctor, right? What’s happened? They’re like, what? Okay, that’s an extreme example, which of course, I’m accountable for my ADD, but like, it’s very different, because like, the interactions were different, right? So I think like, that’s like the problem that we are going through right now that we have like a new type of like, agent in the system that we are living in, and we need to figure out how to regulate it and how to interact with how to deal with failure when we interact.

Eric Dodds 21:13
All right, well, thanks, everyone for joining us for another shop talk. Costas. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts, even if they’re, you know, just a construct and we will catch you on the next one.