The Fourth of July is a special US holiday for a few important reasons. First, it is a celebration of the birth of our nation filled with symbolism, patriotism, picnics, guilt-free potato salad binging, and lots of noisy fireworks. Secondly, it signifies the unofficial start of summer, when schools are closed, families take leisurely vacations, and flip flops overtake work shoes as the footwear of choice. Last and most importantly, the July 4th holiday symbolizes a spirit of independence that is deeply embedded in the DNA of our country. It’s a day when many of us, consciously or unconsciously, reflect upon the importance that freedom and self-reliance play in our lives.

As a long-time entrepreneur, the concept of independence holds a special place in my heart. Frankly, I don’t really know if it’s my natural aversion to following other people’s rules or the agitated, claustrophobic feeling I get when I’m dependent upon others for something I need to get done “yesterday.” Similarly, I believe most people in the workplace today are hungry for control over the work they do and how they do it. How do I know this? Because in my world of technology and artificial intelligence (AI), I hear it constantly from our customers and partners.

Consider the deep institutional knowledge, experience and expertise each of our institutions and corporations hold in their ranks: analysts, researchers, domain experts, administrators, etc. This army of knowledge workers is closest to the action, and very often the ones who know how to get things done in their respective organizations. The main thing holding them back is their inability to get access to quality data quickly, and their over-reliance on their IT (information technology), engineering and data science teams.

Imagine the innovation and productivity we could unleash by empowering these non-technical professionals with powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning they could use themselves to manage, make sense of and leverage their organization’s data.

On this Independence Day, as I reflect upon my own approach to business and problem solving, I can envision a day in the near future when non-technical domain experts can team up with AI technology to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

What’s your experience? Do you or your organization wrestle with this technical gap? Do you share or disagree with this human-machine teaming vision? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a heaping plate of potato salad to attend to.

Happy Independence Day from all of us here at Topos Labs.


An entrepreneur and technologist, Christopher Stephenson has been launching, leading and advising startups for more than 25 years. He is passionate about innovation and a big supporter of new venture founders who risk everything to drive positive change. Stephenson is the co-founder and CEO of Topos Labs, a Boston-based cognitive computing company. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter or [email protected].