As CTO of Adobe, Abhay Parasnis oversees the company’s technology strategy, and he’s betting big on narrow but deep AI.
Now that every business worth its stock price has moved to “the cloud,” creating massive technology winners like Salesforce, Amazon, and Google along the way, the technology industry finds itself searching once more for a metaphor that can drive its seemingly endless cycle of identifying and building the “next big thing.” And while it seems almost too obvious to identify artificial intelligence, or AI, as that next thing, Abhay Parasnis, CTO of Adobe, makes a strong case for why the received wisdom may yet prove true.
Famous for betting the company on the cloud five years ago (and winning big), Adobe is making an even bigger bet on a certain kind of AI — what Parasnis calls “narrow AI.” Adobe’s goal is to leverage narrow AI across its core suite of products in creativity, marketing services, and business services, in the process simplifying them and making them accessible to a magnitude of order more potential customers. Forget Terminator references, where a generalized AI takes over the world, Parasnis told me at the recent NewCo Shift Forum. Think instead of the magical world of Harry Potter (minus Voldemort, of course). Below is the video and full transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
We’ve been writing with word processors for 40 years. What if we’ve been doing it wrong all this time?
In another Medium Premium series created in conjunction with noted authors and journalists, Workflow, by Author Steven Johnson, interviews famous authors and creators about the tools, techniques, and habits behind the creative mind. This series features conversations with Liz Phair, Rebecca Skloot, Kevin Kelly, and more.
The series intro explores tinkering with workflow, experimenting with new tools and approaches. Johnson enjoys talking to other creative people (sometimes other writers, but not always) about their habits and the technology they use to aid their creative process.
Just about every organization today wants to be more creative. But just like “innovation”, the word “creativity” means something different for every organization.
For example, when you look at incredibly creative companies like Pixar or IDEO, you can see a lot of differences in their creative processes and outcomes. They go about creativity in very different ways. But what they have in common is a culture where creativity is both expected and rewarded.
Fundamentally, creativity is about being Culture First; it’s about creating a very intentional way of being that leads to the creative result.
There’s a very romantic American story that I love, that lots of artists who are young and starting out love, too, and it goes like this: Move to the Big City with nothing, make friends, make art, struggle, but make it. That’s the kind of story told in Patti Smith’s wonderful memoir, Just Kids.
It certainly isn’t the place I knew when I was young — we had no money, the city was bankrupt, it was filled with cockroaches, a lot of rats, it was a bit gritty, and it was cheap to live here, really cheap. You could have a bookstore job and a little apartment in the East Village. There were so many of us, so many like minds. You can’t do that now.