2018 Conference - Opening Remarks by Executive Director, Dave Costenaro

The following are my opening remarks from our recent Conference. On May 8, 2018, an amazing group of over 300 attendees and 30 speakers from all over the nation converged in St. Louis to share insights and learnings about artificial intelligence. It was awesome!

Good morning and welcome to the inaugural Conference on Artificial Intelligence. is a 501c3 non-profit based here in St. Louis. Our mission is to get you ready for the opportunities and the challenges that AI will bring. This conference is the center stage for that mission, and I can’t thank you enough for being here today to share in it.

We were founded just over a year ago by two St. Louis serial tech entrepreneurs — David Karandish and Chris Sims — who see the cresting wave of artificial intelligence as a critical success factor that could make or break the economic future of our city. works to conduct AI research, connect people, create resources, and coordinate events like this one; all with the goal of making the Artificial Intelligence Revolution accessible to all.

The AI Revolution

While the headlines and the buzz have been hard to miss, let me bring the AI Revolution into focus for you by reviewing the facts.

New deep learning techniques, enabled by the incredible proliferation of Big Data and computational power, continue to push boundaries and unlock new frontiers  while traditional methods stall out.

Deep Neural Net Performance Trends

Deep Neural Net Performance Trends


This unlocks new business value. What was already a $2 billion dollar market for AI in 2017 is projected to grow 50% annually — Let me say that again, 50% annually — to a $60 billion global market by 2025!

In the sessions today, you’ll see what AI is capable of and why this is such a big deal. Self-driving vehicles are redefining the transportation sector, and  automated medical diagnoses are rocking the healthcare world, Over just the next few years, new forms of machine intelligence will become ubiquitous and will fundamentally disrupt what it means to work… What it means to live… and even what it means to be human.

The power of AI will accelerate productivity, enhance well being, and drive unprecedented wealth creation. Whole industries will rise and fall with an INTRA-generational speed that none of us have experienced before, and it’s incumbent on us that the benefits and costs are distributed equitably, and that individuals and communities do not get caught unaware in a technological riptide.

AI in St. Louis

What you may not know is that St. Louis is already establishing itself as a national and global hub of AI innovation. Right here in the metropolitan area, an army of data scientists, academics, engineers, and business people manifest a strong contingent on the  vanguard of cutting edge AI development and deployment.

Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 1.29.28 PM.png


Let me be very clear: the AI revolution is not the province of a few select neighborhoods in Silicon Valley or New York City. The conversation is global because of three cross-cutting and unprecedented developments:

  1. Mind-blowing accessibility to open source computer code  -  where tools and knowledge are collaboratively built and freely shared.

  2. The ability to learn anywhere from the world’s leading experts - in video forums such as massively open online courses (MOOCs)

  3. The abundance of publicly available datasets - with millions if not billions of data points for machine learning algorithms to digest and train on…

St. Louis Advantage 1: People

This revolution is still in its early stages, and here in the heartland we’re perfectly poised to seize a first-mover advantage — we have a battalion of professionals and students with all the prerequisite skills to thrive in the AI Revolution:

  • The skills to required to build AI: math, science, statistics, analysis

  • The skills necessary to deploy AI: design, communication, management, strategy

  • And the skills that enable us to effectively leverage AI: synthesis, caregiving, teaching, creativity

The Economist: Data is the New Oil

The Economist: Data is the New Oil


St. Louis Advantage 2: Data

The Economist calls Data “the new oil” of  the digital economy. Here in St. Louis, the workforce I described is already operating some of the nation’s largest pipelines of data. Transacting and managing huge swaths of information for healthcare, financial services, transportation, energy, and more.

St. Louis Advantage 3: Culture & Mindset

And finally, I believe that there is a more abstract strategic advantage that should not be discounted: our Midwestern cultural pragmatism.

When there is so much hype, and when there is so much at stake, it is imperative to take a measured approach. There are many ways to respond to this AI revolution. One extreme end of this spectrum would be to stick your head in the sand and pretend nothing is changing. On the other hand  you could also speed recklessly forward without considering ramifications such as business viability or, or ethical consequences.

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I am confident that our ecosystem here in the “Show Me State” has the right balance of mindfulness and grit necessary to be successful leaders in the field of AI.

I think that all of you  in the room today at the Prepare.Ai conference…I think that YOU are the people that I want piloting the ship in the AI Revolution.

Thank You!


Dave Costenaro is Executive Director at and Head of Artificial Intelligence Design at