The Second Winter of our Discontent? (The Week in AI)

The Second Winter of our Discontent? (The Week in AI)

The summer fog in San Francisco is notorious for keeping temperatures down, and the Telegraph’s new transplant James Titcomb has been feeling the chill – specifically the first frost of a second AI winter. In a feature piece this week, Titcomb replays the funding collapse in AI research in the Seventies and subsequent wave of disillusionment to set the scene. The article then pours cold water on recent AI breakthroughs and suggests areas like autonomous driving and medical diagnostics have over promised and under delivered.

This poses interesting questions for how researchers and startups sell their innovations and future plans and whether, from a communications standpoint, and driven by funding and media appetite, too many have overstated the implications of their research. Should researchers and company executives be more circumspect for the long-term health of the field?

No Beerbot on my Dime Says Flake

Engadget in the U.S. presents a classic trope of “dumb politician doesn’t get tech” to explain how Jeff Flake is seeking to ban defence funding for an MIT robotics project that can serve beer. While there’s an element of truth to the headline that Flake is missing the point, given that the robot is actually being developed to coordinate other robots in a disaster environment, it’s worth digging a little deeper to ask why Flake has missed the point.

While it makes sense that the strategies used to communicate new AI and robotics breakthroughs use fun demonstrations to make them accessible, digestible and good fodder for the media, there are also perils. As Mariella Moon does summarise neatly at the end of her article, researchers need to be thoughtful about how they bring their work into the public gaze, particularly when influential political stakeholders are likely watching on.

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Government launches digital innovation fund to boost diversity in tech

Digital minister Margot James launched a new Digital Skills Innovation Fund earlier this week at an event, designed to specifically help to encourage under-represented groups into digital roles. This is particularly important in terms of ensuring that the transition of roles caused by AI adoption does not substantially help or hurt particular demographics. More here: https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/digital-skills-innovation-fund-diversity/

Government names cyber security centres of excellence, including AI-specialist Cardiff

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) have identified the University of Kent, King’s College London, and Cardiff University as having first-rate research with scale and impact. Cardiff in particular has built a strong reputation around using AI in cybersecurity research, a discipline it labels Cyber Security Analytics. Prof. Pete Burnap from the Univeristy of Cardiff said: “Our aim is to innovate with AI to improve automated cyber threat intelligence and support decision making and policy responses to make the UK more secure for individuals, business and the government.” More here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-universities-recognised-for-excellence-in-cyber-security-research

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MRI scanning could become ten times faster using AI Technology (The Week in AI)

MRI scanning could become ten times faster using AI Technology (The Week in AI)

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Facebook spotting the injury

AI researchers from tech conglomerate Facebook in partnership with the NYU School of Medicine are reported to be working on applying machine-learning to build cross-sectional images of internal structures. The project aims to use AI trained machinery to detect underlying structures in the body and potentially provide accurate imagery at a much faster speed. However, the team warned of the challenges involved as “A few missing or incorrectly modelled pixels could mean the difference between an all-clear scan and one in which radiologists find a torn ligament or a possible tumour.” Whilst the finished article might be far away lead researcher Larry Zitnick is said to be hopeful of results within a year.

AI to soon replace the workforce

The chief economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane and Tabitha Goldstaub, Chair of the Artificial intelligence council have expressed concerns at the threat computers and robots could pose to the security of jobs. Both admitted there was a strong possibility jobs could be replaced by various machines in the future and called for employees to be ready for the ‘new technological wave’. To supplement this, recommendations have been posed for people to be given training for new jobs that would become available to avoid errors seen in technological revolutions of the past. Mr Haldane added: “We will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future, if we are not to suffer this longer-term feature called technological unemployment.”

Switch the channel to Artificial Intelligence TV

The BBC has announced it will use artificial intelligence (AI) to curate two-nights of programming on BBC 4, in line with exhibiting its current work around AI and machine learning issues. Shows scheduled for the evening include Made by Machine: When AI met the archive, and The Joy of AI, which examines the progress of AI to date and the emergence of machine learning. The magic of AI was in full force to sift through more than 250,000 TV programmes and select shows accustomed to the channel’s previous offerings. Just when you thought weeknight TV could not get any better!

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Government delivers timely update

The UK’s ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood this week delivered a speech outlining the Government’s current activity in the development of AI at the Tech City Executive Accelerator conference. He highlighted the opportunities arising as a result of the recently published AI sector deal and current investment in the development of AI technology in universities. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/artificial-intelligence-a-collaboration

White paper pushing for universal platform of public service data

Leading AI experts along with Alan Mak MP have launched a report calling for the UK to capitalise on the potential of AI technology to create a universal platform for public service data. The Braintree White Paper ‘Artificial Intelligence, Government and Public Services’ contained recommendations for data protection and governance to become the founding cornerstone of the 4th Industrial Revolution. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/new-whitepaper-calls-for-government-wide-ai-platform/49372/

UK boasts super superfast broadband

In other news, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published new figures which show around five million homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband. According to an independent assessment of the Government’s rollout of superfast broadband there has been an incredible £9 billion surge in turnover for businesses benefiting from the faster connections. Digital Minister Margot James MP is hoping to see all of the UK on full-fibre broadband by 2023. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45238452

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Lifting the barriers to EV uptake – securing clearer and longer-term policy

Lifting the barriers to EV uptake – securing clearer and longer-term policy

Written by Darran Messem, Head of Transport and Sustainable Development

Delivering the UK Government’s targets for emission reduction and electric vehicle (EV) uptake depends on addressing three key challenges, according to a panel of EV experts convened by Madano.

Huge steps have been taken in the decarbonisation and electrification of the UK fleet, but there is much more to be done to (1) stimulate the demand side, (2) secure clearer and longer-term policy from Government and (3) increase automotive and energy cross-sector alignment to deliver the increased electricity grid flexibility, capacity and reliability to enable large-scale EV adoption.

Here we look at the second of these three challenges: securing clearer and longer-term policy.

When discussing demand-side challenges (see previous article in this series)the expert panel kept returning to the impact of confused policy signals on diesel together with the short-term nature of many policy instruments. Arguably the hardest work has to be done now to create the platform for increased demand over the next 20 years. It will be necessary to create more certainty in the market to change both buyer and user behaviour. This will require strong and consistent policy signals upon which informed choices can be made. Key among these signals are the financial signals sent by fiscal and taxation policy.

As the sudden and dramatic increase and then decrease in diesel vehicles shows, Government messaging and fiscal policy have a profound effect in shaping the vehicle market. Already there are clear messages and financial incentives, such as the plug-in car grant, to support EV uptake, but the expert panel’s view was that these signals are insufficient and inconsistent. Here there are three key concerns:

Incentives should be proportionate to emission impact to encourage the better choices. Currently the plug-in car grant applies to plug-in hybrid vehicles even though these may spend the majority of their working lives in combustion-engine operation, although it is recognised plug-in hybrids provide a positive interim technology that helps demonstrate and build confidence. The grant does not adequately reflect the whole-life electric operation of a pure EV. Further, the harmonisation of vehicle excise duty (VED) has not provided a clear market signal, and even greater differentiation in VED bands than existed in the past will be needed to drive clear and sustained patterns of demand. It was noted that VED costs are a key driver in the second-hand market.

Policy needs to be longer term to build confidence in the desired trajectory. There will be a change to EV tax for company cars in 2020. This is creating hesitance in the market today. Positive incentives could be brought forward. Norway is often cited as an example of a successful EV market, and the expert panel noted the consistency and strength of policy signals in Norway. Clear policy signals that extend beyond the short life of one Parliament are needed, which probably requires an Act of Parliament that binds future Governments, as is the case with the Climate Change Act of 2008.

Policy signals need to be consistent across the automotive and energy sectors to provide the necessary information and support. The desire to shift to electric mobility needs to be signalled through domestic charging infrastructure and tariffs, as well as through vehicle incentives and pricing. The expert panel was concerned that the financial structure on electricity pricing for domestic recharging is anything but clear with a potential £28bn hole in H.M. Treasury’s income resulting from petrol and diesel duty reductions, and the threat of this being recouped through domestic tariffs on recharging is acting as a brake on the market. Too few electricity suppliers are offering EV recharging tariffs. Smart meters are not addressing the requirement for optimising recharge time for off-peak supply. Swapping energy supplier remains insufficiently simple to create the market for easier tariffs and supply.

A concluding remark from Madano, who convened the panel and the background research. We set out with this series of articles and panel discussion to explore the barriers to EV uptake and the role of communication. The discussion has highlighted a number of key barriers, ranging public policy through engineering practicality to consumer perception, and we observe that in all cases communication is key, because electric mobility requires whole system change, and this requires joined up thinking. Insight – communication – impact.

This blog is part 3 of a series of 3. The final blog will cover the discussion on automotive and energy cross-sector alignment. You can read part 1 of the series on stimulating the demand side here.

Our expert panel (from Madano breakfast briefing event 18th July)

Madano is grateful to the expert panel who came together for this discussion and agreed to its write-up:

Angie Boakes, General Manager Electric Mobility, Royal Dutch Shell

Professor Paul Maropoulos, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Knowledge Exchange, Aston University

Evie Martell, Marketing Manager, Chargemaster

Huw Owen, Head of Digital, Tata Motors

Jay Parmar, Policy Director, BVRLA

Valerie Shawcross CBE, Transport for London Board Member, and Former Deputy Mayor of London for Transport (attending in a personal capacity)

Akshai Srinivasan, Electric Mobility Manager, BP

Peter Stephens, Head of External Affairs and Government Relations, Nissan

The Robotic Hand that Rocks the Cradle – (The Week in AI)

The Robotic Hand that Rocks the Cradle – (The Week in AI)

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Research from the University of Plymouth found that, while adults are not susceptible to bad advice from robots, children are easily led astray by machines. The study aped the famous Asch paradigm, which has long been used to examine how susceptible people are to peer pressure. In this case, however, the human peer was replaced by a robot.

The findings post yet another dystopian image of the AI future and freshly surface the importance of establishing clear ethical frameworks in AI R&D. This is an area that the UK Government is dialled in on, in terms of both protecting the public at large but also in forging a commercial niche for the UK as a centre for ethical innovation in AI. Technology innovators and influencers need to come together with government in a bid to have early discussions on how abuses and side-effects of AI innovation can be prevented.

Machine-learning system can identify 50 types of disease better than leading experts

A new machine-learning system developed by DeepMind and Moorfields eye hospital is as good as the world’s best experts at detecting eye problems, reports Samuel Gibbs in The Guardian. The development is a particularly exciting one due to the transparency it provides for checking its assessment. “The maps and any differing or ambiguous results can be shown visually to a clinician for their own interpretation and explanation of the referral result,” writes Gibbs. This is a refreshing change from many of the “black box” machine learning algorithms that are bemoaned for not allowing humans to check and understand how the systems arrived at a particular conclusion. Clinical trials and regulatory approvals await, but this breakthrough is seen as an answer to the increasing lack of available experts.

Divvin’ be nebby Alexa

One major fear relating to the explosion in virtual home assistants is that they are snooping on our conversations. Less thought has been given to how they subtly might mould our own communications choices. According to research by Newcastle’s Life Science Centre, home assistants threaten regional accents as locals shift their speech closer to received pronunciation to appease their smart assistants. After all, nobody wants to get caught in a voice-recognition powered lift in Scotland.

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Food, glorious food

Innovate UK invited entries for a £20 million competition for research projects that represent a crossover between the agri-food sector and real-time robotics sensing, data, AI and earth observation. The initiative is part of the Government’s broader £90 million initiative to grow more food to support a swelling population. More information: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/efficient-and-sustainable-agriculture-apply-for-funding

Contrasting assessments of DCMS ministers’ savvy

In other news, ad trade mag Campaign issues a withering appraisal of new DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright, referencing that he has but twice uttered the words digital in the Commons – https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/lawman-cometh-will-jeremy-wright-good-advertising-industry/1490004

However, MP Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, was shortlisted by Computer Weekly as one of the most influential women in IT https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252444988/Voting-open-vote-now-for-the-most-influential-woman-in-UK-technology-2018?Offer=maxitwittervoting

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Cyber Security Cat and Mouse Entering New AI Era (The Week in AI)

Cyber Security Cat and Mouse Entering New AI Era (The Week in AI)

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IBM’s unveiling this week of research that demonstrates the capacity for artificial intelligence to weaponise hacking tools, sent shivers around the newly swelled ranks of data protection officers and CISOs everywhere. According to this report in Silicon UK by Tom Jowitt, IBM’s DeepLocker (which sounds ominous already) is a litany of highly targeted and evasive attacks powered by AI. Presented at the notorious Black Hat conference in Vegas – the Cyber Security industry’s coolest, if not its biggest conference – DeepLocker unleashes its malicious action as soon as the AI model identifies the target through indicators like facial recognition, geolocation and voice recognition, according to IBM’s statement.

The fact that the malware programmes demonstrated can remain dormant until they reach a specific target, makes them potentially very hard to stop. The onus will be very much on the cyber security industry to innovate with artificial intelligence at the same pace that the hackers do and IBM’s efforts underscore the benefits of “white hat” hacking which seeks to probe vulnerabilities and identify them before the bad guys do so they can be fixed.

This story resurfaces the debate about how AI can be ethically controlled and used for the benefit of as many people as possible, as opposed to its harm. Where will AI fall on the hedonistic scale? Pleasure or pain? It’s too early to say.

Samsung Bets Big on AI and 5G

An organisation more intent on creating AI developments for the consumer is Samsung, and the Korean tech giant committed £17 billion in AI and 5G R&D. As reported here by Hasan Chowdhury in the Telegraph, as part of the investment, Samsung will be upping its army of AI researchers to over 1,000. As per a previous announcement, 400 of those will be located at its new lab in Cambridge (England, not Massachusetts). After seeing a slump in profits in its tech arm, Samsung is clearly taking a bullish approach to rectifying that over the long term.

This announcement does bring into focus a conversation about consumer-focused artificial intelligence and the extent to which they will rely on high quality connectivity to function optimally. 5G-ready devices and mobile networks will clearly have a major role in ensuring that connectivity is fit for purpose.

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Prime Minister hails investment in Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre

Theresa May spoke at the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal and hailed the government’s investment in data analytics in the region in the shape of the Bayes Centre. The centre will provide shared working spaces for applied data science and artificial intelligence research teams.

It is one of five hubs across the city that will use data technology to support research and development activity in sectors of the future, from fin-tech and robotics to bio tech and health sciences.

Read more – https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-remarks-at-the-signing-of-the-edinburgh-and-south-east-scotland-city-deal-7-august-2018

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