Written by Sophie Hodgson 

This week Sofie Skouras and I were lucky enough to attend CogX. Co-founded by Charlie Muirhead and Tabitha Goldstaub, the conference debated the business, government and social impact of AI. Here’s what we learnt:

  • AI welcomes young and old. From Lord Young, who left school 70 years ago, addressing the audience on Day Two about why AI won’t steal all our jobs through to Charlie Murihead’s 13-year-old nephew (the most fearless asker of questions), everyone was welcome.
  • AI is not however diverse. One of the key themes talked about in the ethics panel was that AI algos are being written by “white libertarian men.” More needs to be done to address this.
  • Data and AI have a tricky and complex relationship. The sheer volume of data is one of the many reasons companies across different spectrums are looking to adopt AI. Yet at the same time, the regulatory framework is moving towards greater transparency and control. This is an issue because as models self-learn they take decisions further away from the individual. Surprisingly AI is not covered in GDPR.
  • Data privacy matters and was proclaimed to be a human right. To this end, Nick Halstead talked about why we need new, secure frameworks for collaboration that breed trust but allow ongoing data analysis
  • 26 year old entrepreneur Amber Atherton says millennials recognise that their data is part of a data exchange – but expect their experience to be made better as a result. That isn’t always the case and so she cautioned companies to implement AI in a way that was relevant to their brand.
  • There was an actual robot on stage. Sophia was absolutely staggering, interacting in conversations and exceptionally lifelike. Indeed one attendee said their key takeaway from day one was that robots can dance.
  • 30 per cent of panellists were women. Co-founder Tabitha acknowledged she would have liked that number to be higher but that they were making headway to address the gender imbalance. Personally, I was surprised that percentage wasn’t higher as the sessions I sat in on were well represented by both men and woman. CogX is proof that there is no excuse not to create a diverse panel.

There was a lot of discussion and optimism at the event. People are still clearly feeling their way, trying to get their heads around what lies ahead and how AI will transform life as we know it. And it absolutely will. It’s for that reason that we need to ensure two things. Firstly, that the UK creates a business environment that empowers start-ups, scale-ups and larger companies in this space to thrive. Second, the discussion is great but action, guidelines and an agreed way forward is much needed.

 

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