2017 Evidence Meeting 1 – What is AI to you? – Overview

 In Evidence, Evidence Meeting Overview, News

APPG AI Evidence Meeting 1 | Monday, 20 March 2017 | 6:30 – 8:00pm
House of Commons, Committee Room 15

Main Focus:

  • What is AI to you?
  • Machine learning – Decision Making – Natural language understanding – Automated reasoning – Autonomous systems – Multi-agent systems – Semantic web



  • Michael Wooldridge – Head of Computing, University of Oxford
  • Jon Andrews – UK Executive Board Partner, Head of Technology and Investment, PwC
  • Alex Housley – Founder and CEO, Seldon
  • David Ferguson – Head of Digital Innovation, EDF Energy
  • Ankur Modi – CEO, Status Today


Co-chair Stephen Metcalfe MP kicked off the first Evidence Giving Meeting for the APPG on Artificial Intelligence [APPG AI]. Welcoming the speakers and the entire audience, he noted that the mission of the day was to unpack AI and its different meanings, as well as share evidence with various stakeholders (academia, the government, corporate companies, start-ups, etc.).

Michael Woolridge started the discussion distinguishing between strong AI and weak AI. While strong AI aims to develop a machine’s intellectual capability functionally equal to a human being, weak AI is much simpler, focusing on the automation of a specific task. Most successful cases of AI – such as face recognition or lip reading – are examples of weak AI. He noted that AI is already impacting society in various ways and creating new economic and social opportunities. Nonetheless, he recognized that there are challenges coming along with AI, including unemployment issues, lack of privacy, autonomous weaponry, and algorithmic bias.

PwC’s Head of Technology and Investment, Jon Andrew, continued, highlighting 5 areas society needs to focus on regarding AI. First, he discussed the need to demystify AI and make it clear not only for the general public but also for experts in the field. Second, he acknowledged that UK needs to develop learning processes so society can accept AI. Third, he commented on the gap between males and females in the sphere and called to seek ways to shrink this gap. Fourth, he raised the concern that society needs to learn to trust AI. Lastly, he also touched on the employment issue, agreeing that AI will cause a disruption in the job market.

Alex Housley, Founder and CEO of start-up Seldon, began his talk referring to AI as the “driver of the 4th Industrial Revolution.” Providing examples of success stories such as DeepMind, he argued that machine learning has helped solve problems and, hence, made lives easier and faster. He explained to the group that there are clear social impacts (agricultural developments, poverty deduction, etc.) linked directly to AI. Like the others, he mentioned that there will be job losses but argued that AI will also create new jobs. He asked for the government to continue to foster an ecosystem in which AI can develop and, also, revolutionize the visa system to attract global talent from abroad.

The fourth speaker was David Fergusson, Head of Digital Innovation at EDF Energy. He illustrated how AI is already being adapted by EDF. For electricity generation, he used the buzzwords “safety” and “efficiency” to explain how AI had transformed predictive maintenance and real-time conditioning processes. For the customer angle, he discussed values like transparency, insight, and automation, and demonstrated how AI is already using these to help customers through “show me, help me, do it for me” mechanisms.

Lastly, Ankur Modi, CEO from Status Today, took the floor, stating that AI is “the most misunderstood term since the Internet.” He explained that it is imperative to first understand human behaviour before truly understanding data. Furthermore, he discussed that awareness has to be built because there is a lot of misinformation instilling a sense of fear amongst society. He asked the government to work with the private sector to establish a society that has an innovation-first mindset that still respects privacy.

The meeting instilled a positive view of what AI means for the UK, and the global, future. As long as important issues related to employment, inequality, and privacy are addressed, the APPG AI concluded that the opportunities linked with AI far outweigh the risks.


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