Artificial intelligence: a force for good

Phil Young

Phil Young, Senior Community and Research Manager at Digital Catapult, writes about the societal benefits of artificial intelligence and shares details about our upcoming AI events and activities. 

Dystopian movies, TV and popular literature such as I, Robot, Transcendence and most recently Humans on Channel 4 have painted Artificial Intelligence in a relatively dim light, ever since the term was coined by McCarthy back in 1955. The concept of Artificial Intelligence comes with so many caveats and warnings of ‘playing god’ that almost every technological advance has come with doomsday predictions and warnings from prominent figures.

While these warnings are important to take heed of, particularly with the fast pace and impact that AI and Machine Learning (AI/ML) will inevitably bring to all sectors, it is also essential to reframe the story around AI and focus on some of the more positive things that are happening.

AI and Machine Learning can, and already have, brought remarkable game-changing advantages to the world we live in. Take the health sector for example; two well-known UK AI start-ups, Babylon Health and Benevolent AI, are making significant strides in transforming health and wellbeing for millions of people across the world.

Babylon Health, which has built one of the most successful apps for video consultations with GPs using AI and machine learning to pre-screen patients, has recently launched its work in Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest countries. The app has over 100,000 citizens signed up as part of a subsidised government scheme to improve the country’s health services.

Benevolent AI on the other hand, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate and revolutionise drug development. In a world where a new scientific paper is published every 30 seconds, the use of AI to process vast amounts of complex data and provide biomedical scientists with deeper insights and analyses can help accelerate advancements in curing the world’s most prevalent diseases.

In the last month alone, I have met with and read stories on UK based research teams using artificial intelligence to help improve care pathways for cancer and mental health patients, map refugee movements to help international development workers with delivering aid and help blind people to read again.

It is with this backdrop that Digital Catapult has arranged a number of AI/ML focused events in the first quarter of 2017:

  • “Hacking Happiness” hackathon (16-17 January) with The Royal Society; we’ll have judges including Google DeepMind’s Tom Stepleton and Dr. Sabine Hauert, as well as high profile research teams from across the country exploring ways that AI can predict, measure and increase our happiness.
  • Dstl Pitstop (2-3 March) which will look at how AI and machine learning can inform more efficient decision making when planning military deployments.
Hacking Happiness (click to learn more)

We’re #HackingHappiness with the Royal Society

We have also just been announced as the UK Advocacy Partner to the inspirational global competition IBM Watson’s AI XPRIZE, which challenges teams to develop powerful artificial intelligence based applications and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with AI to tackle the world’s biggest problems, from poverty and healthcare to sustainable energy. The structure of the four-year competition will also be “open”, allowing teams for the first time to define their own challenges and demonstrate their solutions with any AI technology – allowing for a myriad of problem-solving approaches.

The exciting thing about IBM Watson’s AI XPRIZE is that it aims to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies and spark creative, innovative and audacious demonstrations of the technology that are truly scalable and solve societal grand challenges.

Get involved with the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition

Get involved with the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition

Now is the time for innovative, forward thinking and disruptive data science research teams at start-ups, scale-ups, universities, corporates and institutions across the UK to announce to the world some of the amazing things they are doing using Artificial Intelligence and register a team on the XPRIZE website for a chance of winning the much coveted prize.

With the huge potential impact of this technology alongside diverse, emerging and exciting opportunities for UK-based research teams to get involved in, Digital Catapult is in the unique position of reaching out to pioneering AI visionaries to encourage them to raise their profile on the world stage.

Phil Young is Senior Community and Research Manager at Digital Catapult. You can follow him on Twitter @philydigital. Don’t forget to follow us too @DigiCatapult.

To find out more about our artificial intelligence events and activities, click here.

2 Comments on:
“Artificial intelligence: a force for good”

  1. Grit Hartung says:

    Technology can be a force for good (utopian) and bad (dystopian) & it probably always is somewhere in between.

    We need to focus on enhancing the better part of our human potential Technology unleashes, by understanding our current human condition & see futures

    • Hayley Brace says:

      Hi Grit – couldn’t agree more with you here. If we think and plan ahead for the future to make sure we utilise the benefits of emerging technologies and mitigate against the risks we can greatly benefit humanity as a whole.

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