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The future of AI depends on who’s at the table

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Artificial Intelligence
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A new report from Canada’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship about AI’s implications for policy makers found that, to be successful in implementing AI in government, a diversity in conversation must happen.

Conversations about AI aren’t just limited to government, or to Canada. Countries all over the world are tossing their hats in the ring to figure out how to best, and most seamlessly integrate AI into the public realm.

The report, “The AI Shift: Implications for policymakers”, outlines that there’s a need for what Brookfield calls ”deliberate conversation” and that it needs to happen “amongst policymakers, technologists, social scientists and broader communities that will be impacted by a shift toward a prediction-centred society.”

The institute also observed that a further exploration of what will happen when AI is used in government, and a closer look at the decision-making process behind such AI, is needed.

Deliberate conversation

Imogen Parker, the head of justice, rights and digital society for the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust that funds research and student programming in the UK, outlined in her piece for TechUK what is meant by “deliberate conversation.”

Parker writers that, as the UK has announced that they want to be a leading force in ethics for technology and data use, they need to have a “diversity of voices” looking into risks and potential outcomes of the use and employment of AI in the public sphere.

Brookfield has released a briefer on AI and the basic terminology associated, it includes a helpful section that explains the ethical implications.

“Due to the increasing reliance on and trust in automated systems in contexts that may require them to make moral decisions,” reads the document. “Users should consider whether the values embedded in the code reflect their own.”

 

Giving values

The idea of a value set in a machine not reflecting a person’s values — or reflecting, depending on who the person is — is a topic of ongoing discussion. At UC Berkeley, professor Anca Dragan is working on developing algorithms for human-robot interaction to ensure that conflicts between humans and robots are avoided by teaching robots to express their intentions and capabilities. Research like hers is crucial to the ongoing and ever-evolving field of AI because there have already been conflicts between humans and AI, like the self-driving car that killed a woman in Arizona.

 

The conversation around AI will determine the future we build with it. And if the report from Brookfield is correct, more deliberate discussion needs to happen — and soon.

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Leadership

Engineers need to use tech to make humans more powerful

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AI
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James Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, gave the convocation speech to Boston University’s College of Engineering and talks about how engineers can create better machines and tools for humans, rather than just focusing on robots that put humans out of work.

In his convocation speech, Heppelmann focused on the importance of better connecting humans with digital tools and creating tools and machines that don’t just aim to replace humans, but creating machines that will aid humans in their understanding of the digital world.

One of the ways to do this, Heppelmann said, is using AR. In his view, AR will help to alleviate some of the problems caused by the great divide created by automation — where people have been split into two camps: the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The “haves” are the ones who are benefitting from, understanding and creating automation, the “have-nots” are those who are being replaced. Heppelmann said that this imbalance creates an image problem for the tech industry.

 


He said that there needs to be a stronger focus on connecting physical, digital and human capabilities because “humans have innovation and creativity” and future engineers and tech industry professionals need to create “new ways to pass digital information onto humans.”
He describes AR as “augmenting god-given human capabilities with a technology overlay,” like one might see in a hearing aid or smart glasses. By giving humans this overlay of digital information, AR becomes “a great equalizer [that] allows people to become smart and connected.”
An example of this would be giving employees in a factory a pair of smart glasses to help the human employee with their productivity.

Heppelmann said that engineers have a responsibility to “elevate [their] focus higher than productivity and cost savings” and spoke about the concept of “the societal engineer,” which is an engineer “who uses digital technology to make humans more powerful.”

“The societal engineer combines quantitative and creative problem solving skills with the ability to communicate effectively with systems-level thinking and global awareness with a passion for innovation and awareness of public policy and a social consciousness and an appreciation for the need to improve the quality of life while creating jobs and economic opportunities.”

Heppelmann ends his convocation speech by asking engineers to take this responsibility seriously and “help create a safer, more sustainable, healthier more productive world with enough food and water and opportunity for all.”

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Talent

Samsung set to open AI research lab in Cambridge

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Samsung AI
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Tech giant Samsung is opening an AI research lab in Cambridge. The move to do this has been welcomed by British Prime Minister Theresa May, but there’s concern over a mass funneling of graduates out of academic AI research.

This centre joins Samsung’s other AI centres in Moscow and Toronto. The move to build a research lab in Britain, specifically for AI, comes as no surprise following a recent announcement by Prime Minister May’s government.

U.K. spurs AI research

The U.K. government recently announced a USD$400 million investment in AI from corporations and investment firms based in and out of the U.K. In addition, a report from the House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee states that while the U.K. can’t outspend leaders like China, they can still become leaders in AI.

BBC reported that the new centre will be lead by professor Andrew Blake, formerly of Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge and the new Samsung AI lab “could recruit as many as 150 scientists.”

The brain drain

According to the BBC, there’s concern over a funneling of graduates in AI research out of academics and into private sector work:

“A recent study by recruitment specialists Odgers Berndtson found just 225 students in the country were doing post-graduate technology research in specialist areas including AI and machine learning. “In the US, PhD qualified experts can command packages of $300,000 [£223,000]. And in the UK, whilst not yet at that level, salaries are spiralling,” said Mike Drew, head of technology at the headhunting company. A large part of the problem is that industry is picking university departments clean of their talent. A distinguished academic in the AI field confirmed this to me – he said anyone who had done post-graduate research in machine learning could ‘name their price.'”

This isn’t an isolated situation, the same concern was raised when Facebook decided to open new AI labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, with professors, scholars and researchers from local universities worrying about the future of academic AI research when so many graduates leave for corporate — and greener — pastures.

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Events

Talent and diversity to drive this year’s Elevate tech festival

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Elevate Festival
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The Elevate Tech festival is only one year old, but after watching this week’s launch event at Shopify’s Toronto HQ, it appears that Canada’s largest tech festival has grown by leaps and bounds.

Elevate will run in Toronto from September 24-27, with 10,000 attendees expected and 250 venues taking part. Notable speakers on this year’s main stage will include Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of dating app Bumble, and environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

Celebrating Canada’s talent

This year’s festival will put a big emphasis on talent, one of Canada’s greatest assets when it comes to tech innovation. Elevate is teaming up with Startup Open House, as well as last year’s partners NewCo, to help connect 4,000 students, job-seekers, and young professionals with some of the many great companies driving Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

While last year’s festival made the point of putting Toronto and its tech innovation ecosystem on the global stage, the conversation has broadened for Elevate 2018. Now billed as Canada’s Tech Week, CEO Razor Suleman said the 2018 festival will shed light on Canada’s growing tech landscape as a whole, and even reach out to Canadian expats around the globe, letting them know that things are moving in the right direction back home.

Collaboration, diversity and growing together

For Suleman, the biggest lesson learned from last year’s Elevate, and the biggest opportunity for 2018, is the strength of collaboration that made the festival possible.

“Partnering with the community and being open and collaborative is the best way to create something that we’re all passionate about, and ultimately scale the festival and realize the vision we have,” said Suleman.

Crucial to that collaboration is showing the diverse nature of Canada’s innovation community. Just as at last year’s Elevate, the motto ‘Diversity is our strength’ is key to Canada’s Tech Week. Suleman said that this year’s festival will continue to seek out new ways to reach out to diverse parts of Canada’s innovation community and get them involved.

“This year when we looked at the ten-thousand-person capacity that we have, we broke down the different demographics and wanted to make sure that we got representation. We’re super passionate, as is our parter TD, about involving students. We’ve got the Investor Group coming. We’d love to have more female investors, we’d love to have more women in tech, we’d love to have entrepreneurs that are visible minorities. All of the ecosystem is welcome.”

Between big name speakers, the emphasis on talent and the continued commitment to diversity, Elevate’s 2018 offering is sure to stir creative innovation and collaboration.

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