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.

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

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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