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Facing our AI Fears: What we can all learn from the #FutureTechLondon event

Events, Technology

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Cyborgs with lasers for eyes and apocalyptic uprisings due to automation autonomy were all that sprung to mind when I thought of Artificial Intelligence (AI). And I definitely was not alone in this thought, as over 75% of the public’s perceptions come from the media, be it TV, print or online. However, I was lucky enough to recently attend Mortimer Spinks’ Annual which aimed to debunk the myths and misinformation about AI and set some things straight. ‘FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN: The Rise of AI’ was a discussion about the implications of AI and how we can use this technology in a positive way.

The event set off with an inspiring keynote by Kate Rosenshine, Head of Data and AI Cloud Solution Architecture at Microsoft, who describes her role as sitting in the intersection of data and technology. She started off definition of AI and its origins, dating back all the way into the 50s, which was quite a surprise to me! She continued with reassuring words to the audience, reminding us that AI is not thinking in the same way as we are, but connects technology to the world in a more natural way. It was this understanding that AI is designed by us that was at the core of her speech and that in the same way that businesses have a responsibility to act in an ethical way, data and AI needs to be used responsibly and ethically.

I think it was quite a refreshing way for myself and the audience to think about AI rather than this phenomenon that was so different to us. AI is us, Kate surmised. AI uses data, which we create, therefore the data that AI uses reflects and is influenced by our culture. And in the same way that we all have our biases, data therefore, is biased. Again, she puts the onus on us to think about the data we are creating and how businesses interested in AI are using data that is reflective of the communities they operate to offer more value to their customers. AI is a working title, and it’s up to us to make it the best it can be.

Kate’s great speech left the audience buzzing for the panel, and it didn’t disappoint. Hosted by Computer Weekly’s Bryan Glick, we had the opportunity to listen to a discussion on all things AI with Kate Rosenshine, Sherin Mathew, Dani Katz, Sue Daley and Adam Hawkins, all of whom are leading the way in technology. I think across the board there was an acceptance that the AI technology shift is moving ever closer and businesses have to understand how AI works and how it can benefit them on an enterprise scale. Sherin emphasises that we need to be ahead of the curve with AI. AI provides businesses with invaluable foresight and enables them to optimise their organisation and its staff. The panel were then asked how business should best prepare for the impending transformation. Kate recommended that businesses ‘start small and win fast’.

Sue Daley of techUK offered her wisdom on how businesses should be thinking about AI. Businesses should be focussing on building the right digital foundations. It’s essential that we are asking the right questions; do we have talent across the sectors to meet the needs of businesses and are existing staff being appropriately upskilled to meet the new needs of businesses and retain talent. Sue, along with the rest of the panel, wished to ‘rebalance the conversation on AI’ and made note of AI’s potential to positively change lives, be it large or small.

We were also lucky enough to hear a few words from LinkedIn’s Adam Hawkins, who sees AI as a way to make talent acquisition more effective and offer more insight into skills shortages so that we can create innovative solutions that truly benefit employers and employees. I think there was a misconception amongst all of us that AI would render us as employees useless. But, Adam believes that AI is missing that human touch; which allows recruiters to do what they do best, managing people, and using their empathy and support best skills to provided tailored services that offer true value.

Bryan then asked the panel what we all were thinking; how is AI going to change our lives, for good or bad? The response from the panellists were positive but also considered. Dani believed that AI would create new opportunity through an entire new class of employment. For Kate, ‘we have a lot to gain, but also a lot to lose if we get it wrong.’

Ending the night was the magnificent Elena Sinel, founder of Teens in AI. Elena is an amazing and intelligent woman with enviable academic accolades, and she held the attention of every member of the audience, especially me! Elena started her keynote explaining the origin story of Teens in AI which really resonated with me. It all began as a way to engage Peter Hu, a young and talented boy who was facing depression and suicidal thoughts. Through creating innovative solutions for life’s little problems with AI, Peter was able to get out of that bad place and excel. We were also introduced to another member of Teens in AI, a 13-year-old girl and budding techie who used AI to enable doctors to be more efficient and make more accurate diagnoses. Hearing such inspiring stories about young people using technology to improve their lives and others’ lives made me feel emotional. Teens of today have been immersed in technology since the day they were born, and it is great that they see themselves as co-creators and influencers of the technology of tomorrow.

Elena went on to discuss the daunting facts; by 2022, we will need one million technology roles. There is a really big need for technology talent in the future and this isn’t being presented to future generations through education systems. Many young people do not even know what opportunities in technology are available to them and the versatility of the industry. But through initiatives such as Teens in AI, young people all over the world can use their intelligence, curiosity and creativity to challenge themselves and others.

One thing that Elena mentioned which I think encapsulates the whole event was that ‘tech embodies the values of those who builds it. These values are reproduced in society when other people use that technology’. AI is unchartered territory with so much potential and it these young minds that we need to cultivate so that we can use technology to change the world for the better.

AI has had a very bad rap within the media and I believe this comes from our fears of the loss of what makes us so great as humans. I left the event not feeling scared, but excited for what is to come, and the positive impact AI can have on how we live, how we do business and how we recruit the best talent both today and in upcoming decades.

Blog written by: Michelle Osman-Kamara, Bid Writer at Harvey Nash Group 

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