Panelists: AI here to stay in food manufacturing – Food Business News

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DALLAS — The rise of artificial intelligence has been rapid and full of unknowns, but Tom Kurfess, chief manufacturing officer and professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech University, is already embracing it.

“If you want to walk away with just a thought, the bottom line is AI in manufacturing operations is coming,” Kurfess said. “It is nothing to be afraid of. It’s going to make our lives easier. But we have to use it accordingly.”

Kurfess delivered his education session on AI at SNAC International’s SNX 2024 held April 14-16 in Dallas to a packed room of food manufacturers and baking processors. Kurfess believes AI’s role in food manufacturing could be quite positive, as long as utilized correctly. This mindset comes directly from his role in the Georgia Tech engineering department, where their unofficial motto is “innovating at the speed of thought.” This philosophy produces a positive outlook toward utilizing AI, as well as scaling the technology that already exists, he said.

Kurfess said it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the new technology.

“The problem with AI is that it loves to work on things we (already) understand,” he said. “If it’s got to interpolate, great. If it’s got to extrapolate, not so good.

AI can only understand things that humans teach them, Kurfess said.

“A person never stops learning,” Kurfess added. “Why should machines?”

All of this adds up to a straightforward idea, Kurfess said: humans and AI need to work together. Kurfess explained that much of the debate has been centered around humans vs. AI, when it should be humans with AI.

“This is what it should look like … having humans working alongside AI,” he said.

“Times are changing,” he said. “Things are moving quickly.”

Kurfess ended his session with a quote from his favorite philosopher, Eric Hoffer. “In times of change, learners inherit the earth: while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

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