Humanity faces many challenges, from human rights to pandemics to climate change, and AI can be our best tool against them, said Alexandr Wang, CEO and founder of Scale AI. “That’s what we’ve dedicated Scale to: How do we enable the world’s most ambitious organizations to use artificial intelligence to solve today’s most transformational problems?”
on this week Most innovative companies podcast, Wang explains how Scale makes data ‘useful’ for not only tackling our biggest problems, but also unleashing human creativity. He talks about why modern AI systems are no match for humans and never will be, how to foster innovation as a company grows, and why he believes optimism can shape reality.
In recent months, Scale has been working closely with the US and Ukrainian governments to better understand what is happening in the region. “We used satellite data and ran artificial intelligence algorithms on that data to map all the major cities: Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Mariupol,” Wang says. “And then, day by day, we mapped the extent of damage to every single structure in these cities — literally building by building.”
This effort will enable both governments to divert humanitarian and medical resources where they are needed most, by answering questions such as how much damage is being caused by the war with Russia, how can we divert infrastructure projects and how can we use our resources to immediately address the day where there is significant damage.
However, Scale’s work is not limited to the conflict in Ukraine. Wang cites several use cases in the application of modern AI and data labeling technology. In medicine, for example, Scale is working to streamline access to healthcare by facilitating the automatic detection of disease. In the wake of the global doctor shortage, medical institutions just can’t train people fast enough, he explains, but AI can lighten the burden.
“Infatuated” with data, Wang dropped out of MIT at age 19 to found Scale. At 25, he is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. With 700 employees and growing, Scale has managed to get big without going “bad,” as Wang describes it, something “like a nuclear reactor for energy and excitement.”
Wang believes that “ambition shapes reality,” describing a phenomenon by which people tend to realize the magnitude of their ambition.
This is one of the reasons why Wang, as he was growing up, always hired people who “give a shit”: “It’s impossible to build something and almost impossible to make magic if no one around you cares about what they do,” he says. That’s why, he adds, it’s crucial to create a culture where people can dream big and have a sense of optimism about what they can achieve: “There’s nothing more tempting than the invitation to think bigger.”
It’s also critical to maintain the kind of energy and drive that startups are known for. “[That environment] is honestly one of the most powerful forces in the world. And that only happens if you get the preconditions right, where people feel safe, people are enthusiastic, people are enthusiastic about what they are doing.”
“If you’ve got the conditions for innovation right,” Wang says, “you’ll know it when you see it. You just have to keep trying to find it. And once you’ve found it, don’t ever let it go.”
Listen to the episode for the full interview.