Adobe’s General Counsel Makes the Case for AI

Dana Rao presents cool new AI at FTC public hearing.

Earlier this week, Adobe’s EVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Dana Rao presented at the Federal Trade Commission’s hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century held at Howard University Law School. As part of a series taking place throughout the fall and winter, this week’s hearing focused on the use of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics in business decisions and conduct. Dana participated as a panelist along with representatives from Visa, Experian, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Overall, the hearing served as an opportunity for the FTC, other policymakers, and the public to learn more about the current and potential uses of algorithms, AI, and predictive analytics, the ethical and consumer protection issues associated with the use of these technologies, and the policy, innovation, and market considerations involved.

While there is a clear tie to AI for a company like Visa that is keen on detecting transaction fraud with greater ease, and an organization like the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology hoping to improve patient health care outcomes, why was Adobe interested in providing a point of view at this hearing? A key dynamic that Adobe believes is missing from public discourse on AI is the role that AI plays in digital creativity and customer experiences.

Dana’s presentation highlighted this focus area and provided numerous examples to demonstrate the importance of AI in creative endeavors.

A study undertaken by Pfeiffer Consulting in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany found that the majority of creative professionals are excited about the possibilities of AI to enhance and complement digital creativity. Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen explains that because machines are unable to mimic human creative ability, the rise of machine learning provides the opportunity for creative professionals to free up time which might otherwise be consumed by more routine tasks.

“Machine learning is going to change every single aspect of technology, but no machine will be able to mimic the creative ability of the human mind.”

Adobe’s AI framework, Adobe Sensei, is already helping artists to improve their 3D designs, increase the efficiency of animation, edit photos, detect when photos have been manipulated, and remix music. Effectively, AI will become the creative assistant for professionals and hobbyists alike, enabling creatives to be more creative and helping democratize creativity.

Understanding AI through real world applications

In his presentation at the FTC hearing, Dana detailed a few real-life examples of how Adobe’s AI is already helping the creative community. One is related to deep learning for content understanding in Adobe Stock. Adobe Sensei is trained on data to recognize not only images in photos, but also emotions and relationships. By typing in key words such as happiness, love, joy, beach, and family, an image of a family smiling at the beach is identified as a relevant photo for use in a project.

In another example, Dana explained how AI can help save photographers hours of time by seamlessly pairing two images. If the photographer has the perfect picture of a building (in this case a Las Vegas hotel) but wants to add a skyline with the sunsetting from another shot, this can be done instantaneously. The photographer no longer has to wait for the weather to be perfect to create a final product of his or her liking.

A third example is experimental technology called Project Cloak that was unveiled at Adobe’s creative conference MAX this fall. While the end result of visual effects work is glamorous (think Game of Thrones), much of the back-end work is mundane (e.g. removing people from shots). Adobe’s research team is making this work easier for everyone by allowing the user to select and delete unwanted elements in a moving video and filling the background intelligently. The final product is video that removes unwanted elements.

Large data sets minimize bias

AI is only as good as the data used to train it, which is why Adobe seeks a variety of data and recognizes that bias does exist when developing AI systems. Adobe recognizes that a key element to producing ethical AI is working to neutralize bias. While all humans have innate biases, and as a result those algorithms which are developed by humans can reflect those biases, the process to minimize bias in outcomes starts with the people involved. Algorithms can reflect the gender, race, age, location, professional, and income biases of its developers. It is the responsibility of technology companies to ensure that software design incorporates diversity by ensuring their workforce is diverse and can adequately counter existing bias.

Among the goals and ethical values that Adobe priorities is ensuring that we:

In general, this AI-human collaboration provides for limitless potential,. AI complements and augments human activity to save time and create unprecedented results. Adobe Sensei blends seamlessly in the future of work precisely because it combines the science of data with the art of human creativity, helping analyze data and leaving in-depth decision-making to workers.

The applications are endless, from the future of experiences, the arts, work and data analytics, AI will unleash the human potential by freeing up one of the most precious resources available to humankind – time.

Dana’s presentation at the FTC hearing contained guidance for all governments on the importance of AI and the enormous contributions AI will bring to everyone, including governments, citizens, workers, and entrepreneurs. It’s evident from Dana’s presentation that building an environment that fosters AI is a critical role of governments that are interested in the future prosperity of their country.