The age of AI innovation

Day 2 of the ICT Spring 2019 AI/Digital Summit was opened by Master of Ceremonies Sabinije von Gaffke, moderator, communications expert, content creator and TV host. The session took place on May 22nd, at the ECCL and was entitled "The Age of AI Innovation".

In her welcoming speech she shared that “As an impact diplomat and social entrepreneur this is at the core of my professional interest”. She has been looking at how technology for good can help solve some of the ethical challenges related to AI and feels that trust not only anchors our culture but has also become a competitive advantage.


Ethical AI and Fairness Tool

Öztürk Taspinar (Senior Manager, Digital Lead BeLux, Accenture Digital) opened with an anecdote. He said that how typically on a Sunday he plays board games with his young kids. One Sunday they lost the dice, and he started to show his kids how he could make a dice from a piece of card. His six-year-old daughter asked “Why are you doing that Daddy, just ask Alexa to throw the dice”!

He then went on to draw an analogy with the adult world in pointing out that this is the way that AI aware organisations and individuals have been thinking for the last few years.

Mr. Taspinar wished to assume that the audience is largely aware of what the challenges of AI are today, and proposed instead to talk about the next step … shifting day to day activities to the “human plus machine environment”.

Basically AI is driven by data and algorithms, and is already deeply integrated in our lives. In 2020 (that’s next year!), 85% of our interactions will be managed by AI. This is an exciting and uncertain future, and Mr. Taspinar asked the audience to think about the unintended consequences that AI could bring. For example, Amazon discovered that owing to the skew of historical data, their AI algorithms prefer male employees. In the same way AI credit risk prediction also carries inherent bias, but it is not necessarily the algorithms that are to blame, it is the data.

Either way Mr. Taspinar sees an anthropomorphism of AI, where there is a shifting of the consequences of decisions from human to machine

He finished by urging the audience to consider the digital traces that they leave every day, and how this could affect their own data and their own algorithms.


The Six Superpowers of AI

Gary Bolles, Chair for the Future of Work at the Singularity University, first asked how will AI impact on the future of work and reflected that we are on the cusp of a great shift in the way that people work. The Digital Work Economy. He believes that being on the cusp of a big shift places extra responsibilities on us.

Mr Bolles continued in saying that the next generation will be expected to resolve some of our biggest challenges … cure cancer, live longer, mine asteroids, but we need to understand how do we create one of the most abundant economies ever in an environment where AI takes over more and more of those tasks that we traditionally call work?

He spoke of the three alternative scenarios of: Dystopian analysis – lots of tech, lots of unemployment – and AI ushers in a huge opportunity where there won’t be enough workers to support all of the new tasks that will be created. He then went on to say that in reality, there will most probably be some kind of a hybrid situation where many traditional skills will no longer be required, but that there will be an abundance of new jobs which in many cases will suffer from a lack of sufficiently skilled workers to fill them.

The question then came back to the title of the presentation, as Mr. Bolles asked “How can we help humans to have superpowers to help solve the problems of tomorrow?” He defines six superpowers: Discover – as a child, nobody gave you the user manual of you … you discovered yourself by trial and error, and hopefully sometimes by trial and success. AI tech can be that user manual and help you to discover your own unique capabilities / Enhance – we increasingly use AI tech to enhance our skills, for example, if we need help on a topic when creating an Excel sheet, we no longer need to go to a manual, targeted help is just an F1 click away / Develop – through AI enhanced technology such as augmented reality glasses, a complete beginner can build new capabilities on the spot for example in fixing a problem in a car engine / Understand – use technology to help us in real time to deconstruct problems in order to be able to solve them more easily / Collaborate – use AI solutions to meld your unique skills with others – globally and instantaneously / Extend – we can extend our capabilities with embedded chips etc.

Mr. Bolles closed in remarking that each of us has a unique set of superpowers, we need to think of how to leverage them to help others to develop their own superpowers


How to build an open AI Nation

David Hogan (Enterprise Senior Editor for EMEA, NVIDIA) started with the question “What are we doing as nations in our adoption of AI?”. In almost every market sector the use of AI is part of core business .. radiology … AI evaluation of scans is hugely valuable against a backdrop of a reduction in skilled radiologists .. we can go on … industrial inspection, safety on oil rigs are driven by AI, Smart cities, autonomous cars, biopharmaceuticals, retail and financial are all increasingly reliant on AI.

So the question is, whose technology will we be using? Will our nation be a leader or a follower? In Europe it will not be based on investment, as the Eu invests less than 10% of what China does in AI research. So talent needs to be retained, and to do that, we need to become AI nations.

This can be done through Innovation Platforms (significant computer power is required to allow companies to upscale from proof of concept to production, and this platform needs to be available at an affordable price), Research collaboration (governments cannot make their countries into AI nations on their own, they need to work with researchers and universities and the public sector) and Industry solutions (need to be encouraged and supported by governments).

Chinese AI Startups Applications Cross Sectors

James Chou (Managing Director & CEO, Microsoft for Startups for Greater China, Japan & Korea, Chair of Technology and Innovation Committee of American Chamber of Commerce) started by introducing Microsoft for Startups, which gives free help, including financial, to startups throughout the world from one of 8 Global Scaleup Programs. China is the only country that hosts TWO of these GSPs.

Their criteria mean that although only about 2% of applicants are accepted, they quickly grow and although Microsoft invest on average about $1 million per company, the 332 companies they have supported in China are now worth a collective $37 Billion

Mr. Chou went on to talk about how China has quite deliberately tried to become a dominant force in technology through a national strategy which is based on three tiers of Internet + (digital transformation) One Belt, one Road (global interaction) and Mass Entrepreneurship & Innovation (all local governments receive national funding to support local entrepreneurs).

This allies with a rapid product iteration and innovation approach which can be simplified into Copy, Improve, Become market leader, which is turning China into entrepreneurial heaven for many innovators


Luxembourg. as a Test Market for Digital

Thomas Kallstenius, CEO of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, started by inviting the audience to take part in a thought experiment “Imagine that you are a turkey on a sunny October day, all looks great, you are being well fed, well cared for … then on Thanksgiving you have a BIG surprise!”

This is the problem with a lot of AI scenarios … it is very dangerous to try and predict the future based on the experience of the past. A way to do this is to look for market “transitions” and then force business disruption with game changing innovations.

Digital Lëtzebuerg was created to capitalize on Luxembourg’s small size and create a digital twin of Luxembourg … a technical test bed of an entire country, a nationwide living lab in which real time, closed loop, cross correlation, AI learning scenarios can be applied to test them in a virtual real world.

All of this needs a high performance computer resource, security, data analytics and strong decision support, and the goal is to use what comes out to try and create a better Europe, or even a better world.

Some of the scenarios being tested work on smart buildings, resources management, energy systems, mobility and logistics, sensor technology, industry 4.0 and regulation, and using AI based solutions, achieving one data analytics platform to serve all these different use cases.

Luxembourg intends to be an AI player, and is reaching out across its borders for projects to adopt in Digital Lëtzebuerg. As the Chinese proverb states “When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, some people build windmills”. Luxembourg is building windmills.


AI Dragons an ecosystem to brew AI-enabled ExOs to meet SDGs & expand the AI conversations beyond technical feasibility

Luciana Ledesma (Global Tech Entrepreneur, founder of AI Dragons and certified ExO coachB) exudes passion for her projects and has been continuously inspired to try and encourage ways to apply cutting edge technology for good. She talked about one of her projects in Columbia which tried to address the issue that about 60,000 cases of claimed human rights violations were hitting the Columbian courts every month, but that only 30-80 were actually being heard. An algorithm was already being used to determine in a fair way which cases should be heard, but that was being abused through data alteration. The solution that was proposed used AI and blockchain to filter the cases and retain an audit trail that removed the risk of data tampering.

She also spoke about Jack Sim, or “Mr. Toilet” (BoPHUB) as he has become known, whom she regards as a mentor and who has made it his personal goal to provide toilet access to the two billion people on the planet who do not have such a basic sanitary facility. As Ms. Ledesma said, a toilet is probably the most effective health aid that there is.

She tries to use tech to help the environment through support to people and organizations, and closed in quoting American scientist Margaret Mead in saying “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has”!


John Chalmers

Photos: Marion Dessard

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