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SPEAKER CON-X 2023: Interview Shiyi Pickrell, SVP of Expedia Group Data and AI


As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly prevalent, it is important to consider the ethical implications and challenges associated with this technology.

In this interview, we speak with Shiyi Pickrell, SVP of Expedia Group Data and AI, who shares insights on eliminating bias in data and the importance of sharing knowledge. We also discuss the impact of AI on the job market in the tourism sector, the skills necessary for working in the field of AI, and the potential applications and advances that we can expect to see in the coming years.

- What are the main ethical challenges facing artificial intelligence? 

- While there are many ethical considerations in the space, one of the areas that is top of mind for us includes eliminating bias in data.  At EG, we have a Data Council and an Architecture Guild who look at every system we have that either produces or consumes data, to make sure we have transparency on how we arrive at any AI-powered decisions or predictions and the right governance in place to eliminate bias in our AI outputs.   

Also, sharing knowledge. As an industry, we need to do more to understand the full impact that AI will have, share knowledge, and raise awareness to prevent its use in an irresponsible or immoral manner.      

- How do you think artificial intelligence will affect the job market for companies in the tourism sector in the coming years?

- There is a lot of concern about AI eliminating jobs, but we don’t see generative AI as a replacement for jobs. Rather, we see it as a helpful application to remove friction in the trip planning process.  

- What skills or knowledge would you recommend that those who want to work in the field of artificial intelligence develop?

- There are, of course, common technical skills including experience in various programming languages (Python, Java, R, C++, JavaScript, etc.), data modelling, data analysis, machine learning, and statistics. But there are also softer skills that one can develop including sharpening your analytical and critical thinking skills, communication skills, and a little bit of creativity. It is also important to have a passion and interest in the space—keeping up with the latest industry news, keeping an eye on the trends, and staying curious.  

- How do you see the future of artificial intelligence applied in the tourism sector? What applications or advances do you expect to see in the coming years?

- For most people, taking a trip is a big-ticket item, and it can often lead to some meaningful moments. Travelers want to book the perfect trip for themselves, their family, and their friends, so they often search for help and trusted advice, but it’s not easy. AI can help solve this. The more sophisticated AI gets at recognizing a traveler’s intent and predicting the next best course of action for them, the more complexity and friction it will help take out of the planning, shopping, and booking experience for travelers. Also, the more the travel industry adopts AI, the easier it will be for us to improve the post-booking experience like predicting issues with flight delays or hurricanes, and to innovate new products and services faster.