While I was chatting with my 13-year-old son last Thursday, the conversation turned to the Mortimer Spinks event I would be attending later, called Future Tech London: Fear of the unknown, the rise of AI. ‘Isn’t it really only Amazon Alexa that has AI in it?” he asked.
Well, it turns out that AI is everywhere, and it’s the upcoming generation of teens and people at university that will create the biggest impact and innovation with AI in the future.
This annual flagship event, organized by the team at London-based tech recruitment company Mortimer Spinks, was held on Thursday 4th July at The Mayfair Hotel in London. It featured an impressive lineup of speakers, plus an exhibition where ‘social impact’ not-for-profit organizations connected with a sold-out audience of senior technology decision-makers.
The event was kicked off by Robin Beattie, Director at Mortimer Spinks, who set the scene by outlining the theme of the evening's discussion — ‘Fear of the unknown — the future of AI’. Robin explained that investment in AI is at an all-time high and the applications of AI in business are really only just beginning to be understood. However, now is the time for UK businesses to learn how AI can have a huge positive impact on their success and what they need to put in place in terms of investment, talent, and projects to ensure they don’t get left behind.
The first keynote of the evening was from Kate Rosenshine, Head of Data & AI Cloud Solution Architecture in the Financial Services division at Microsoft UK. Kate talked about how businesses can leverage AI and what society as a whole must be aware of to ensure data is used in the right way for the benefit of all.
Key takeaways from Kate’s talk:
- AI facilitates the amplification of human ingenuity using intelligent technology.
- We are currently in an ‘AI Spring’ where there is a huge volume of data being created — the key will be finding and getting the value out of this massive data set.
- AI in and of itself is not smart; AI will learn whatever we teach it. Therefore, it is critically important that we teach it the right things for accurate results.
- Diversity of thought and social circumstances is hugely important when creating AI systems — businesses must mirror its users to create data sets that are reflective of society and the people it serves.
Kate’s keynote was followed by a lively panel hosted by Bryan Glick, Editor in Chief of Computer Weekly. The panel (Sherin Mathew, Sue Daley, Dani Katz, Adam Hawkins, and Kate Rosenshine, see end for details) discussed key questions put to them by Bryan and the audience on how AI is changing the workplace and how businesses can prepare for AI.
- People don’t know where to get started with AI but there is a lot of buzz around AI in London (in fact there are more AI startups in London than in Berlin and Paris combined).
- We are moving away from the hype of AI towards greater governance as AI matures and requires more compliance to ensure data is protected and maintained carefully.
- AI is everywhere — know where your strength is and exploit it to augment your workforce.
- Only 20% of AI models have been implemented. It is critical for data scientists and developers to work effectively together to improve this statistic.
- Businesses need to clearly define what problem they are trying to solve with AI before investing. Start small, win faster and prove AI is working before large-scale rollout.
- In the recruitment industry, AI can make it easier to connect people with jobs, as candidates and recruiters can identify potential paths for careers that they are not already aware of and the resources needed to get there. However, AI takes out the empathy component in recruitment, so it’s critical to blend humans with data to ensure that people will always be at the heart of the industry.
AI in the future:
- AI will flow through everything we do — having a stable and modern digital infrastructure in place to support this is key. Building the future talent pipeline must be a priority if the UK is to be an industry leader in AI, not just in tech but in all sectors, as AI will be part of most businesses in the future.
- Businesses must be careful about how they use AI. Many could do more with AI but this could affect integrity, so companies should protect their user experience first.
- AI will allow businesses and society to keep a step ahead before problems happen. This will help businesses and society to solve wider societal problems eg. identifying causes of cancer or sourcing clean water.
- Data scientists need to be more diverse to reduce unconscious bias. Work is being done to create more diversity in AI but there is still more to do.
The evening wrapped up with a closing keynote from Elena Sinel, Founder of Acorn Aspirations and Teens in AI. Elena gave an inspiring glimpse into the future pipeline of AI innovation. She regularly works with teens around the globe through her ‘Teens in AI’ program, to provide skills, confidence, and access to young people that are interested in AI, machine learning, and data science. Elena demonstrated that the future generation is ideally placed to fully leverage the benefits of AI and that they are especially interested in ‘AI for Good.’
- AI is very interesting to teens as they care about the world and looking after it for future generations.
- UK schools must change the way they teach to fully exploit AI; in the UK, school is taught through a knowledge-based approach rather than a collaboration-based one, which would be more aligned with AI. As a comparison, in China, they teach AI in primary school to ensure their future generations are completely literate in this new technology.
- Kids are doing amazing things with AI. For example, they are building algorithms to diagnose dyslexia in early childhood and building an online tool for GPs (‘Doctor AI’).
- AI can be world-changing and young people have the enthusiasm and innovative minds to fully take on the challenges and opportunities AI can bring.
At the end of the event, attendees were treated to some canapes, drinks and a slice of the Mortimer Spinks 30th birthday cake (the company celebrates 30 years in the industry this year). Then they headed off to think about how they could implement some of the ideas they had taken away from the evening’s discussions.
From my perspective, I have learned that AI is here to stay, but we are really only at the very tip of the iceberg in understanding its impact on business and the wider society. This event proves once more the power of live events in bringing people together to innovate and drive conversations forward.
Robin Beattie, Mortimer Spinks
Kate Rosenshine, Microsoft
Sue Daley, TechUK
Bryan Glick, Computer Weekly
Adam Hawkins, LinkedIn
Dani Katz, Optalitix
Elena Sinel, Acorn Aspirations
Social Impact Stands:
To find out more about Teens in AI, visit teensinai.com
Natalie Gray is Head of Business Development at Voxgig, the events platform for speakers, organizers, and exhibitors. She runs the Eventprofs London meetup and is co-curating a new annual conference, Eventprofs Connect, in Dublin. Natalie is also a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion in tech and regularly writes about diversity and about tech events.