The Cyber Security AI Arms Race Hots Up (The Week in AI)

The Cyber Security AI Arms Race Hots Up (The Week in AI)

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Cyber AI specialist Darktrace has secured another $50 million in Series E funding to enable its global expansion. As covered here by TechCrunch, the London-based company currently boasts a $1.65 billion valuation. The UK tech scene can bask in this heady valuation, particularly with Funding Circle publishing its IPO prospectus last week, another unicorn expected to be valued at around $1.5 billion depending on how the IPO process.

Darktrace’s mission to combat AI-based attacks also fits neatly with the Government’s vision of ensuring the UK is a place that helps shape AI to the benefit of mankind, not its detriment.

In an article this week, The Economist examined Europe’s place in the AI and data analytics arms race. While the article oscillated in typical Economist fashion between the advantages and challenges that Europe has in leading in AI, the scepticism expressed by the great and good of Silicon Valley was notable. “It will screw this up, just as it has done with cloud computing,” says Jack Clark of OpenAI in the article, because Europe tends to favour incumbent businesses over disruptors. Much discussion on the event circuit this year has been around how the Government can do more in terms of opening procurement to innovative start-ups. The question is, can the Government respond and make changes?

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright abandons hologram project

Fearing a fiasco, Jeremy Wright jettisoned the plan for his speech at Tory party conference to be presented in holographic form. Discretion may have been the better part of valour here for the new Secretary, given that this was his predecessor Matt Hancock’s idea in the first place.

Read more here:

Labour party conference light on AI

In contrast to last year when the opposition leader’s speech included a grave warning on AI’s impact on jobs, the Labour Party Conference seemed very light on discussion of artificial intelligence, aside from a couple of fringe events specifically on the topic. On the assumption that artificial intelligence will have major impacts on our economy, and with the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation just wrapping up its consultation, this does perhaps seem a missed opportunity for Labour to lay out its vision on how it would manage and leverage artificial intelligence.

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AI Encroaching on Game Developers World? (The Week in AI)

AI Encroaching on Game Developers World? (The Week in AI)

Video gaming with a twist

Researchers from Georgia Tech have reportedly configured a way for video games to be created using AI machinery. This latest discovery is yet another indication of the growing capability of AI in the gaming industry with the machine learning algorithms used to learn about existing models of games and then used to contribute to creating varied games. In commentary, associate professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, Mark Riedl said “Games are really complex and really hard to make, even for experts, so the ability of an algorithm to create interesting, working games is a notable achievement.” Could FIFA 20 be made by AI?

Given that many suggest that creative jobs will be less vulnerable to displacement thanks to machine learning, this research could raise temperatures for aspiring game developers.

The Economist calls for European AI focus

Europe’s efforts to make ground in the global AI race came under the spotlight in The Economist this week with the acceptance that Europe will need to lay hold of its own AI champions and big digital platforms. The article also called for Europe to create an environment for its AI industry to thrive, alluding to the belief that data collection and usage in China and U.S. has substantially muddier grounding, and that this can be a significant advantage for Europe.

Around Whitehall:

As part of the Government’s plans to grow the UK’s AI industry, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Science Advisory Council (SAC) this week published a report exploring the potential impact AI could have on transport generally and how it could shape the public’s perception. The report examined current AI capabilities and opportunities for transformative transport technologies such as autonomous vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles to be integrated. The report also suggested AI might revolutionise the transport sector by enabling accurate traffic prediction, real-time journey planners and more efficient movement of freight.

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Why businesses should give back

Why businesses should give back

Written by Michael Evans, Managing Partner

Two weeks ago Madano held its annual away day. This year’s event was a little different in that the theme for the day was Collective Responsibility. Collective Responsibility can mean many things but for us as a company we wanted to get back to basics in terms of supporting each other in the business – but also recognising that we are in a quite privileged position and we should actively look to support others outside of Madano when we can.

Working with O3e who helped organise the event, we decided to support a charity called Jigsaw4U – a brilliant children’s charity based in the South West of London that supports children and young people affected by significant social and emotional issues and bereavement. As part of this, six teams from Madano were tasked with building bikes for kids nominated for the charity – it was very humbling to hear the kids stories and their backgrounds and realise something that we may take for granted such as a bike would have such an impact on their lives.

Obviously doing something for charity as a business is nothing new – and that’s not the point of this point – nor is it to show we are a nice organization but more that businesses have a collective responsibility to do more than just make money – whether its community work, supporting charities, sponsorship, or just helping with people’s wellbeing – these are the right things to do and we shouldn’t forget that.

To find out more about Jigsaw4U and O3e here –

AI in the UK – are we riding a wave or missing the boat?

AI in the UK – are we riding a wave or missing the boat?

This week, Madano’s technology team hosted a breakfast panel discussion investigating the UK’s competitiveness and prospects in developing artificial intelligence as a cornerstone of the economy. Leading figures from politics, industry, media and academia were invited to offer fresh perspective on what the future of AI could hold. Speakers included Alan Mak MP; Prof. Jon Timmis (PVC and Professor of Intelligent & Adaptive Systems at the University of York); Dr. Angie Ma (COO, ASI Data Science); and Harry de Quetteville (Special Technology Correspondent, Daily Telegraph).

Amidst a spate of major initiatives designed to catalyse Artificial Intelligence innovation in the UK – most notably the Government’s AI Sector Deal – enthusiasm and curiosity abound. But, given the propensity of AI projects to fail, previous false dawns and public trepidations surrounding the technology and the relatively small investment levels when compared to the U.S. and China, cynicism here at home is also in plentiful supply. We asked our panellists whether the UK is doing the right things and what needs to change. Here are the key takeaways:

1. The UK has phenomenal potential and AI can be a great boost to productivity, but more must be done

Kicking off the event, Alan Mak described the opportunity that the UK has to set standards around AI and machine learning technologies if it is able to be an early leader in innovation. All the speakers were united in acknowledging the UK’s clear position as third in the global pecking order, but fretted that ultimately, third is nowhere.

The panel concurred that AI will totally transform the economy and bolster productivity, but it was suggested that if this was so clear to everybody in the room, should the Government not divert more spending in this direction (i.e. £700 million in public spending in the AI sector; £40 billion spent on defence).

Government also needs to do more in terms of procurement from innovative SMEs in order to bolster innovation according to the panel.

2. The brain drain is a real threat, but so is a skills shortage

While fears about our ability to compete with the larger economies were expressed, Harry de Quetteville painted a more positive picture drawing on the lessons of history. We were a pioneer in nuclear technology thanks to a small pocket of Hungarian émigrés who made their homes here, he said.

Angie Ma pointed to the lack of a major UK tech behemoth as a danger to retaining talent and de Quetteville concurred highlighting that referring to Google owned DeepMind as British is debatable and that Bloomsbury AI was harvested by Facebook for its talent, rather than its product set.

However, many speakers referred to a plethora of exciting AI start-ups and London’s pre-eminence within Europe as a promising factor in creating the necessary employment conditions.

Whilst speakers did refer to our world class universities, it was highlighted that the single degree with the lowest employment rate was in fact computer science – is the UK teaching the right skills?

3. Public engagement and government regulation critical

Professor Timmis observed that a greater concentration on teaching the right skills to school-age children and getting them excited and engaged by machine learning is a critical step. From there, speakers debated the potential damages that could ensue from a lack of a concerted effort to court public opinion in support of AI innovation.

Speakers agreed unanimously that convincing the public of the risk/reward of allowing their data to be used within AI implementations and accepting the decisions of those systems was a key battleground for ensuring success.

A large pillar of securing that public trust will be in ensuring safety and ethical guardrails. Professor Timmis outlined some exciting work that the University of York is undertaking around safety controls in autonomous systems.

Also discussed was a Catch 22 situation relating to neural networks by nature being “a black box” where the rationale for decision making cannot be explained. In spite of the efficacy of neural networks within machine learning, it was agreed that there were potentially insurmountable challenges in gaining public trust about systems that made important life changing decisions for citizens without having to clearly explain how and why they did so.

It was agreed that the Government has an important role in setting the ethical agenda that might power global standards, making the UK a fertile place for AI investment, while also creating a supportive sentiment among the public at large. What those regulations might be is the subject for significantly more debate pending the results of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s consultation.

Madano is a fully integrated communications consultancy that specialises in advising clients in sectors where communications are critical to success.

We would very much like to hear your thoughts about the issue of artificial intelligence development in the UK – please feel free to reach out to us.

You could also stay up to date with the very latest developments in our Week in AI blog which comes out every Friday. S I G N U P H E R E

Finding the fast lane on the Road to Zero

Finding the fast lane on the Road to Zero

Lifting the barriers to EV uptake requires close co-operation between the automotive and energy sectors

Written by Gareth Morrell, Head of Insights & Intelligence

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 grid flexibility, capacity and reliability to enable large-scale EV adoption.

The Prime Minister’s announcement this week of new funds will help in some part with the first barrier and go some way to putting the cheque book behind the Road to Zero strategy. But encouragement is also needed for the industry to work together and provide consistency and certainty for consumers. Here we look at this final challenge and then the question of whether the Government targets are achievable.

Connecting up: automotive and energy working together

Improving consumer confidence needs action at interface between the automotive and the energy sectors. Primarily, this is about demonstrating consumer value, creating demand for domestic and public recharging as well as providing reassurance over future energy pricing.

  • Providing reassurance on long term electricity supply is required to address concerns that the grid will not be able to cope. While the National Grid Energy Scenarios have shone some light on the potential solution, there isn’t a consensus view on where reliable and affordable supply will come from and how peaks and troughs will be balanced if there is widespread EV uptake.
  • Provision of off-peak charging, linked through smart meters to reliable off-peak tariffs, is required to develop confidence in the practicality and affordability of home charging. This adds to the case the EVs add value for consumer and don’t just reduce emissions.
  • Consistent communication from the automotive and energy sectors on charge-point accessibility and interchangeability, energy supply and electricity pricing is required to build confidence in the private and public recharging networks.

Achievable targets?

The challenges of aligning the automotive and energy sectors, together with stimulating the demand side and clarifying Government policy, begs the question: are the UK Government’s 2040 and 2050 targets achievable?

Madano’s panel was inclined (with one exception) to say yes, but there are three stages (as illustrated in Madano’s technology adoption S-curve) which each present their own complex challenges:

  • In the early phase, the groundwork has to be prepared, in terms of reliable long-term policy, consistent messaging, and reliable accessible infrastructure, to build confidence in and beyond early adoption.
  • In the middle phase of rapid growth, both demand-side stimulus and vehicle and infrastructure supply will also need acceleration. Almost certainly, in the panel’s view, it will be necessary to have a transition period between petrol/diesel and EVs. There will remain a long-term role for clean diesels, for both practical engineering reasons as well as to help transition tax revenue streams.
  • In the final stage, the drive towards 100% uptake will require an exhaustive push into the further reaches of UK geography and behaviour. The final 5% of this 100% may be unobtainable and the Government may have to decide 95% is close enough.

Madano 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. While the Prime Minister’s announcement of new funding is welcome, in overcoming each challenge sophisticated communication is key. Electric mobility requires whole system change, and this requires much more significant investment but most importantly joined up thinking and consistent messaging.

This blog is part 3 of a series of 3.

Part 1 – stimulating the demand side

Part 2 – securing clearer and long-term policy

Our expert panel

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

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