This AI Pioneer Says the Tech’s Best Applications Are in Payments 

With knowledge comes power, and that fact is particularly true when using artificial intelligence (AI). 

After all, knowing how an innovation works is essential for leveraging it effectively and discerning its strengths and limitations.

“When you ask people, a lot of them don’t know much about AI — only that it is a technology that will change everything,” Akli Adjaoute, founder and general partner at venture capital fund Exponion and author of the book, “AI Reality and Illusion” which is set to be published April 30, tells PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster for the “AI Effect” series. 

“It is like knowing only that cars can bring you from one place to another, not that they have wheels, engines, brakes, and so on,” Adjaoute says. “AI is a tool, and like any other tool, the potential of the tool lies in the way you use it.” 

That’s why demystifying AI for those who hear about it but may not truly understand its essence is so important for the technology to realize its potential — and positive — impact. 

And Adjaoute would know. He’s been an expert in the AI field for over 30 years, having founded and led Brighterion, a software company specializing in AI that was acquired by Mastercard in 2017. 

But how can the average individual, or business, get a workable knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of AI systems?

“It is important for everyone to understand that AI learns from data,” Adjaoute explains, emphasizing that human intelligence is “extremely difficult” to mimic by computer. 

There is a growing need for a widespread, realistic comprehension of what AI can achieve in order to avoid the pitfalls of hype-driven perceptions around the technology, he adds. 

Separating AI Facts From AI Fiction

Still, the transformative power of AI to drive innovation and shape the future of business isn’t all empty hype — although the doomsday scenarios being bandied about represent their own story. 

“AI can bring a benefit to every field. You just have to be extremely realistic and careful about how you apply it. … The power of AI is so impressive for doing good — but also bad,” Adjaoute says. “It is a tool that will enhance human capacity by adding our impressive intelligence to the impressive power of machines to read an unlimited amount of data and extract insights at speed that can help humans make better decisions.” 

From healthcare to fraud prevention and homeland security, the potential of AI to bring about positive change is vast. Nevertheless, Adjaoute cautions against its misuse, emphasizing the responsibility of users to understand the technology’s nuances.

AI, at the end of the day, he emphasizes, is “merely probabilistics and statistics.”

“That is my fear, is we move from the world where science is a fact that is proven and tested, to a world where science is based on a [statistical] proximity. … As soon as you distort science with made up facts, it can be a disaster. We don’t want to enter a world where fake news, even if it is just 10%, 5%, becomes the norm,” Adjaoute says. 

Because the generation of content by AI is based on probabilities and statistics inferred from its data set, and that data set is likely scraped from an internet “full of fake news and false data,” an illusion of understanding can be created, leading to potential distortions and misinformation. 

“The internet by itself represents a lot of data that is intentionally not reliable,” Adjaoute says. 

“But if you go into a field where the data is real, particularly in the payments industry, whether it’s credit risk, whether it’s delinquency, whether it’s AML [anti-money laundering], whether it’s fraud prevention, anything that touches payments … AI can bring a lot of benefit,” he adds. 

Using AI to Its Full Potential

A detailed unraveling of AI’s intricacies reveals that the innovation is truly just a sequence of weighted numbers, Adjaoute says, pointing out that “noise” around the innovation’s potential — giving as an example news stories where experts claim they can’t understand it or that AI models have developed their own language — are “hurting AI.” 

After all, enough real risks are already associated with AI, such as copyright infringement, false information dissemination, and the challenges of regulating AI technologies. For his part, Adjaoute highlights the need for global regulations, drawing attention to Europe’s proactive stance in establishing laws to ensure the ethical use of AI.

“Generative AI is so powerful because it is bringing AI to everyone. … Before Ford cars, no one had a car, and then suddenly everyone had a car — and we got freeways, mechanics, it prompted so much further innovation,” Adjaoute says. 

“Knowing about AI will let people who use the tool understand how it works and do their job better. … Just as with a car, if you show up to the shop without knowing anything you might get taken advantage of by the mechanic,” he adds. 

We live firmly in the information economy, and we may just be moving forward toward a knowledge economy, one where understanding both the potential of AI and the illusions around it are crucial. 


To download a copy of Adjaoute’s book, click here.