On 11th and 12th June, I was thrilled to attend CogX 2018, the ‘Festival of all things AI, Blockchain and Emerging Technologies’ which took place at Tobacco Dock. The event was an absolute treasure trove for anyone hoping to learn more about these exciting technologies, to listen to some industry-leading speakers and academics talking and discussing the most poignant issues facing us in this time of unprecedented technological explosion.
There were plenty of AIs and robots on display, including the famous Robothespian and the infamous Sophia, and a range of startups operating in the blockchain and AI space in attendance.
It’s not an easy job to write up an event in which there were so very many talks. Obviously, I was only able to attend those which fit with my rigorously drawn-up timetable, so I’ll focus primarily on these. For the rest, you’ll find that Cognition X’s YouTube channel has all the talks ready and waiting for you to view yourself, without enduring the pounding heat of day one or the pounding rain of day two!
There was, pretty much, something for everyone to enjoy. For those interested in business and enterprise uses of blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies, those interested in the arts, healthcare, marketing, non-profit, and so on, there was plenty to pick from. For me, however, the best talks were focused around ethics, philosophy and cultural implications of artificial intelligence in particular. Don’t worry, though, I’ll try and be a bit impartial.
What I’m going to do is pick the best talk from each stage on both days, and share a little about what went down.
Stage 1: IMPACT
Calum Chace: The Economic Singularity
Calum Chace is the author of three fantastic books exploring how automation could affect, damage or improve the future. He’s also authored a number of smaller essays and papers on the topic. You can read my interview with Calum here. You can also read my article Ethical AI: Automation and the Post-Work Utopia (or Dystopia) in which I heavily reference his writings.
To summarise, in this talk, Chace argues that past performance is not a guarantee of future outcome, specifically when we are discussing the way automation will shape the job market of the future. In the past, industrial revolutions have focused on mechanisation, taking over manual jobs previously undertaken by humans. We always had our cognitive abilities to fall back on.
The difference now, with AI technology for example, those cognitive abilities can also be automated. He explores the concept of universal basic income, of cost-benefit in commercial autonomous vehicles, and what the possibilities could be if we addressed the issue fully and properly.
From Monday’s IMPACT stage, I also adored the panel, ‘Is Artificially Extending Life Intelligent?’ with Maxine Mackintosh, Polina Mamoshina, Dr Gregory Bailey and Matt Eagles. But my summary of this one will sadly have to wait for another day.
Wes Nichols: Will An AI Be Your Next CMO?
Wes Nichols is Board Partner at Upfront Ventures, and has a strong background in the advertising and marketing industries. This talk, which was absolutely fascinating, particularly for the TDMB team (being, as we are, marketers ourselves). Nichols raised some interesting figures for us to ponder, such as the fact that Google and Facebook together control up to 80% of all advertising space globally.
Technology, Nichols asserts, has completely upended the face of the marketing industry. That, I suppose, is not news. But with the addition of artificial intelligence and machine learning into the now-digitised advertising and marketing space, so much more of the marketer’s job is automatable. This isn’t to say that automation will necessarily destroy jobs in this industry, but it will allow a much deeper, targeted approach to how we market and advertise in coming months and years.
Stage 2: CUTTING EDGE
Dr Jeni Tennison: What Should Our Data Rights Look Like?
Do we have the right to ‘own’ our data? Our reflex is to respond immediately with a resounding ‘yes’! But what does this notion of ‘ownership’ imply? The right to buy or sell that data?
Data, Dr Tennison argues, is not like a physical piece of property which can be left behind through sale or relinquishment. Data about you is always going to be about you. The word ‘ownership’ implies that we could put someone else in the position of being in charge of something that is personal to us. Furthermore, our data, for example on our shopping habits and social media interactions, and our DNA and health records, doesn’t just apply to ourselves, but to our family – our parents, our descendants – and even to our friends and associates.
Is the idea of data privacy linked to outdated ideas surrounding privacy? Should we, instead, be aiming towards a culture of radical transparency? These are complicated issues, and represent just some of those which Tennison explores so eloquently in this deeply fascinating discussion. Highly recommended.
Karina Vold: The Ethics of Brain-Computer Interfaces
Imagine someone could hack your brain and hijack your beliefs, your memories, your feelings for others and use that knowledge to exploit or blackmail you. Imagine enhanced super-soldiers returning to civilian society with better abilities than the rest of the population, or suffering from post-enhancement distress after their enhancement chip is removed. Science fiction? In the world of brain-computer interfaces, these are very real concerns and ones we may find ourselves needing to address as brain-computer interface technology improves.
Find this talk by scrolling to five hours in on the video above.
Stage 3: BLOCKCHAIN
Nyla Rodgers: Satoshi Is Female
Nyla Rodgers is a ‘crypto philosopher’, the Founder of Mama Hope and an advocate for females in blockchain. Her talk was an absolute inspiration and struck a very different note from most, if not all, of the other talks on the Blockchain stage at CogX 2018.
At the centre of Rodgers’s philosophy is the foregrounding of humanity and inclusivity, and she sees crypto and blockchain as a ripe opportunity for us to transform the way we do things and to create a better, more prosperous and egalitarian future.
This is a fantastic talk that demonstrates the power of hope and the very best reasons for deploying these new technologies in a way that is as novel as they are themselves. Incredibly powerful stuff.
Panel: Transforming Healthcare: The Case For Blockchain
This panel comprises of:
- Stefan Roever, Co-Founder, AIKON
- Kamal Obbad, Co-Founder, Nebula Geonomics
- Lucy Ojomoko, Insilico Medicine
- Nancy Fechnay, Founder, The Inspire Movement
After a fairly lengthy demo from Nebula Geonomics, we get to the meat of this panel – the actual discussion! Clearly, your health data is your most important data and blockchain offers a fantastic opportunity to make the most of that data at the same time as keeping it protected, private and secure. Nonetheless, as with the implementation of anything that utilises such sensitive data, it is not a straight path to success.
Stage 4: ETHICS
Panel: Why Women In AI: The Need For Diversity In the Data and Training Of AI
This panel comprises of:
- June Sarpong MBE, Author of Diversify
- Hanna Naima McCloskey, Founder and CEO of Fearless Futures
- Josie Young, Feminist AI Researcher
- Sofia Olhede, Professor of Statistics at UCL
- Carol Reiley, Board Member at Drive.ai
This was, in my view, one of the most engaging and enlightening talks of the CogX 2018 event. Of course, more diversity in STEM subjects and particularly artificial intelligence is urgently needed, and this panel of leaders put across the strongest of cases for precisely why this is so important.
Of particular interest to me, though unfortunately not available on video for you to view, was the ‘Meet The Speakers’ discussion which took place after the main panel discussion. With a room full of women all working in the tech space, we were able to come together to discuss some of the very poignant issues that affect us all as we strive for a more diverse and inclusive environment in the technology industry.
Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Olly Grender: The Lords’ Review: A Magna Carta for the Digital Age? Do We Need An Ethical Code For AI?
If you haven’t yet read the Lords’ Review, then I can highly recommend that you do. Yes, it is long and admittedly a bit of an arduous read in places, but suffice to say that, for the value you get from it in terms of knowledge and insight, it’s worth every second. That being said, this talk highlights perhaps the most pertinent points of the review and goes into more depth, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Stage Five: LAB TO LIVE
Panel: How Is AI Changing Music?
Hosted by Journalist and Broadcaster, Georgia Lewis Anderson, this panel comprised:
- Ed Newton-Rex, CEO and Founder of Jukedeck
- Hazel Savage, Founder of Musiio
- Sophie Goossens, Digital Media Lawyer at Reed Smith
AI may be to do with alleviating inefficiencies and streamlining business processes, but what impact will it have on the creative industries? There is a lot of debate and – admittedly – some grumbles amongst musicians themselves about the impact of increased automation within this art form. However, it is very much a double-edged sword.
There are many benefits that AI and related technologies can bring to the music industry, in the studio, for record labels and for listeners too. We all know about Spotify and its algorithms, and about Daddy’s Car and other AI-generated music, but how much more is there to consider in this prickly and contentious topic?
Ian Bailie: AI In HR and Recruitment
For this part, I would like to simply generalise and cover the entire afternoon’s talks on the Lab To Live stage. These all comprised the topic of AI in HR and Recruitment, employing panels and case studies to give a deep and rounded view of how the recruitment and human resources industries are being deeply affected by artificial intelligence, both for better and for worse. It’s a big topic, clearly.
And there is a lot of technology being implemented that promises to streamline the job of employers and recruitment consultants in terms of bringing in the best talent in the shortest amount of time. Indeed, we met some really excellent companies at CogX who are building AI-powered platforms doing just this.
It really is a very big area in which AI is being used to much advantage right now. The best video to share with you, however, is probably Ian Bailie’s Masterclass. Bailie is head of AI HR Research at Cognition X, and as you’ll quickly gather, knows all there is to know about the use of AI in recruitment.
So that’s the talks covered! Phew! As mentioned, there are plenty more that took place across the two days which I could not cover here. But if you want to find out more and enjoy your own CogX 2018 conference from the comfort of your own home, do check out the Cognition X YouTube channel, where all the talks are available to view now.