The emerging AI landscape is a swirling kaleidoscope of progress and possibility.
It’s clear we are in the middle of an AI revolution. Driven by the availability of big data, computer power, and new scientific breakthroughs, we witness on a weekly basis the development of AI systems that would have been unthinkable at the turn of the century. AI techniques are enabling a vast swathe of new products and services — AI is being embedded in everything we build. And the UK is at the heart of this revolution.
AI is boosting or augmenting many aspects of our lives, but brings with it a growing range of ethical and technical issues. With demand for data scientists and advanced analysts more than tripling in the last five years (according to a recent report commissioned by the Royal Society), the AI sector is booming. It now faces the challenges of closing the “skills gap”—with the Turing doing its part—and addressing a need for greater diversity, so that it is truly representative of diverse populations, and does not further perpetuate societal inequalities.
Assembling the many jigsaw pieces of our AI-boosted society into a cohesive picture – one that maximises the benefits of AI and minimises the risks – is one of the coming decade’s defining challenges. One of the best ways to do this, I believe, is to get as many stakeholders into the same room as we can; to grow the connective tissue of the networks of the future. So I’m delighted to be involved with AI UK, The Alan Turing Institute’s two-day event in London on 24-25 March.
As the UK’s national institute of data science and AI, with close ties to industry and government, the Turing regularly convenes leading academics, policy-makers, technical specialists, business leaders and more in a variety of arenas.
But AI UK is particularly exciting. It is a unique opportunity to meet, listen to and learn from those that are pushing the envelope of AI research in the UK’s academic community. The event will feature AI leaders and luminaries, including the likes of leading British AI scientist, Stuart Russell, co-author of the UK’s landmark AI review, Dame Wendy Hall, founder of leading driverless car company Oxbotica, Paul Newman, and the first DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning, Neil Lawrence.
It will be an enthralling arena for some of the most important technological opportunities and ethical challenges facing the UK.
The UK is committed to the harnessing of AI and big data, acknowledging it as one of the great opportunities of our age. In truth, the opportunities and potential pitfalls of this emerging AI landscape are limited by little more than our imaginations. There are so many AI-powered transformations on the horizon— in healthcare, transport, energy generation, finance, science—AI UK is a valuable chance for the Turing to offer some much-needed AI curation and signposting.
The power of AI is already remarkable, but it’s fair to say this is merely its adolescence: mature AI will be nothing less than one of humanity’s superpowers. And with great power, as the saying goes, comes great responsibility. This is why ethics in machine learning has become a growth industry, and something we’ll be addressing at AI UK with world-authority, Luciano Floridi, Director of the Digital Ethics Lab at the University of Oxford. Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero, will reveal how our budding superpower can help us tackle our climate crisis and create a zero-carbon future, while Chair of the AI Council for the UK government's Office for AI, Tabitha Goldstaub, will advocate for the rapid yet responsible adoption of AI, and champion much-needed diversity in the AI industry. Find more information on AI UK here.
This is a crucial time to develop and advance the national conversation around AI in the UK and how best we might use it to tackle the big challenges faced by our nation and the wider world.
Edited by Sean O’Neill, Science Writer