Talent from the Enterprise M3 region has a ‘significant’ role to play in the development of AI and the future of the internet, according to Professor Dame Wendy Hall, executive director of the Web Science Institute, at the University of Southampton.
Speaking in a ‘fireside chat’ with EM3 Board Member, Linda Cheung, in front of delegates at EM3’s AGM, Dame Wendy said that AI represented a major opportunity for the region.
“We have had industrial revolutions before and AI will generate the next. There will be winners and losers and jobs will be affected. The key players in AI are US, China….and us. So it is important we capture that opportunity or we will become more of a service island.
“We already have a leading edge because of the legacy of AI research in our universities and a strong Tech Start-Up culture – almost twice as many tech start-ups are in the UK as the rest of Europe together and a lot are AI start-ups. There is huge potential to develop the industrial sector here in EM3 if we can build on that.”
“Innovation often starts from the universities and we must look to spot talent, nurture it and surround it with an environment that provides investment. And we must skill up for it – AI is where the jobs will be for future generations and we need to ensure our people are trained in what are going to be their jobs.”
Dame Wendy also spoke passionately about the need for diversity in the future of AI and the internet– not just diversity of the talent and people involved in its development and growth but diversity of software providers and the need for global collaboration on how AI will be used.
“Developing socially responsible AI is vitally important. We are leaders in ethical AI in the UK and we need to capture that opportunity in this region,” she said.
“50% of the planet has access to the internet now and that is awesome,” she told delegates. “But 50% of the planet is still to come on board and what sort of internet are they going to get?
“We have to think globally about how the internet develops in the future. It’s all about trust. China controls a lot of its internet providers and Facebook is also moving into messaging and even cryptocurrency - it was announced this week that Facebook could be our bank.
“But how far should trust go? We have to have discussions at UN level to take this forward as the internet is fragmenting along geo-political lines.
“Academics are already lobbying governments that weapons should not be built which can decide to fire without human intervention. But that can’t be unilateral. We need China at the table, we need India at the table.
“ We need to be building systems around this now. I didn’t take an ethics test when I learned to drive and I bet Henry Ford didn’t when he built his first car. But every time an automated vehicle kills a person there will be a debate about ethics and we need to be prepared.
“The airline industry is one of safest in world because safety is built in and we have to do the same for AI. But we can’t stop building AI while we wait to solve that as we won’t know what some of the challenges are until we face them, or learn how to control them until we try to build them. It’s chicken and egg.
“That is why socially responsible AI is so important – and why we need to be taking a lead now.”