The buzz at Fortune’s Brainstorm A.I. conference

There was a sense of optimism during day one of Fortune’s inaugural Brainstorm A.I. conference in Boston on Monday.

Executives, technologists, and academics discussed some of the industry’s biggest themes: the importance of training employees in A.I. skills and the potential of A.I. to supercharge healthcare.

The topics also focused on the challenges such as the risk of A.I. to society, the environmental impact of large machine learning models, and the hurdles inside businesses to get A.I. projects off the ground.

In general, speakers saw A.I. as a net positive. The technology helped companies better forecast sales during the COVID-19 pandemic when consumer behavior drastically changed, for example. 

For a taste of what Brainstorm A.I. had to offer on its first day, here’s a sample of some of the most interesting comments from the event.  

Jonathan Vanian 

Day One at Fortune Brainstorm A.I.

Andrew Moore, vice president and general manager of cloud A.I. and industry solutions at Google Cloud, discussed the environmental impact of large machine learning models: “So this one is really, it’s absolutely a problem. Say for example we were able to give the best 20,000 A.I. researchers in the world the power to build the kind of models you see Google and OpenAI build in language; that would be an absolute crises, there would be a need many large power stations.”

Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree on making his company’s A.I. chief be part of the human resources department: “One of the things about A.I. and technology in general—it is really there to augment human resources.”

Deep learning expert Andrew Ng, from enterprise startup Landing AI, discussed the role of data in A.I. as more crucial than the algorithms and related software: “What we’re missing is a more systematic engineering discipline of treating good data that feeds A.I. systems.”

Levi Strauss chief global strategy and A.I. officer Katia Walsh on using A.I. and computer vision to “create new Levi's trucker jackets." Her team’s designer used a "style transfer algorithm [and is] feeding thousands of art imagines into the iconic trucker jacket and out comes a Van Gogh Starry Night trucker jacket or a David Hockney trucker jacket...which we're actually going to manufacture and that is mind blowing.”

Zipcar chief technology officer Freedom Dumlao on monitoring car rentals during the pandemic, particularly after the initial onset of shelter-in-place rules: “All of a sudden, everyone was driving again….for us, that came as a shock. Once we saw it happening, we noticed right away the types of drives and driving behavior were very different.”

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