The Future of Natural Language Processing: An Interview with Basis Technology’s Carl Hoffman and Alex Detmering
One of the most important applications of artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP) focuses on the intersection of people and machines. Though NLP has existed since the 1950s, many industries have only begun to tap into its potential. I recently interviewed Carl Hoffman and Alex Detmering of Basis Technology, a software company specializing in NLP, to learn more about this technology and its industrial applications.
Getting to Know Carl & Alex
Since he was a college freshman, Carl Hoffman has been involved with AI. While the entire field fascinated Carl, he was particularly intrigued by its application to human language; and Basis Technology grew out of that curiosity. . Although Basis is a smaller firm, , it has international presence and business scope and has been an industry leader in NLP for over two decades.
Alex Detmering has spent most of his career working at the intersection of AI and financial services. Before Basis Technology, Alex worked for a company called Prattle, which used NLP technology to understand the relationship between language and market movement. Prattle first applied this approach to central bank communications and macroeconomic signals--a difficult task given the infamously dense vocabulary used by policymakers--then later to corporate language and stock prices.
Human Language Problems
Most people think about AI in the context of photos, robots, or self-driving cars, but Basis specifically focuses on how it can be applied to words, sentences, and documents. Analyzing 40 languages (100 by the end of 2019), Basis uses NLP to answer some of the most fundamental questions you can ask about linguistic data: What language is this? What are the most important words in this document? What real world people, organizations, places, or concepts do they refer to? By solving these essential problems, Basis Technology helps business, governments, and individuals find what matter in the ever-growing mass of unstructured information that is the internet.
I closed my interview by asking Carl and Alex for their predictions for the future of AI. Carl predicted that NLP has the potential to become highly disruptive to financial services, though no one can really guess in which ways. Even though he doesn’t like forecasting, Alex agreed with Carl’s assessment. He believes that the general theme of AI’s impact on finance will be better decisions.. From trades to acquisitions, some of the biggest decisions in the space, he explained, are made with only a small fraction of the relevant information taken into account. AI applications can sift through vast amounts of unstructured and structured data and deliver digestible intelligence. As these applications improve, so will decisions, and that is where he believes AI (specifically NLP) will deliver a sizable portion of its value. For more information on Basis Technology, please visit https://www.basistech.com/.
Written by Jack Vasquez, Edited by Alexander Fleiss