Civil Service Alumni: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

What it was:

Talks by subject matter experts on AI hosted by the Civil Service Alumni, at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London on 18 December 2017

What I learned:

AI is permeating business:

  • No single agreed definition of “AI”
  • ‘Narrow’ AI does specific tasks, as opposed to ‘General’ AI which can solve new problems
  • AI is already in use in hundreds of Google products
  • AI is increasingly in the plans of the forward-looking global industrials
  • Huge landscape of firms involved in different sectors

Deep Neural Networks:

  • The workhorse of modern AI is the deep neural network, where each layer of neurons is connected to the prior layer
  • Supervised versus unsupervised learning
  • AI performance is better than humans in many narrow case, using supervised data and deep neural networks

Conditions for success:

  • Many AI applications can be characterised and understood as input X leading to output Y to solve problem Z.  For example, medical scan data leading to disease symptom recognition to solve diagnosis.
  • A precondition for the successful deployment of AI is a clear definition of the system or process, and an understanding of what AI can do
  • A social technical approach, including human impact, is typically desirable
  • AI typically requires widespread digitisation of the system
  • Data requirements: Common definitions, high quality, accessible, sufficient size
  • Domain expertise is key

Impact on Government?

  • A viable, shared business model for both public and private sector is needed
  • Key challenges for government in terms of  capability, ethics, regulation, getting on front foot in terms of impact, and in nurturing the wider AI economy
  • There is a significant discussion happening now around ethics, bias, regulation

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Think about ethics and regulation of AI
  • Think about impact of AI on Government, including potential oportunities
  • Continue my learning theme on AI!

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