Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution

On Wednesday 11th April 2018, Computer Futures hosted an event with guest speaker, Professor Mark Skilton. The event focussed on artificial intelligence (AI) and the 4th Industrial Revolution and how it could affect you and your business. If you were unable to attend the event, don’t worry – here’s a brief overview.

Sharing insight from our Big Data report

Dave Curtis, Partner at Computer Futures, kicked things off by sharing some of the great insight in our latest Big Data report. One of the key points he made was around analytics, saying, “Advanced analytics allow businesses to make quick, cost-effective decisions that can result in greater profitability.” As such, businesses are now understanding the benefits of making effective data driven decisions and improving the quality of data they hold.

So, as the demand for data professionals increases, it’s important companies in all industries do everything they can to ensure they’re getting the right talent in place. With that in mind, Dave then went on to introduce Mark Skilton, who would be talking predominantly about the impact of AI on businesses.

Making AI work for your business

During the first half of the event, Mark introduced the 4th Industrial Revolution which raised some questions that are frequently asked surrounding AI. These included:

  • How do I put AI into my business to accelerate performance?

  • How is AI going to change the future?

  • Where do we want to go with AI?

  • How can AI help you do what you can’t do normally?

One of the messages Mark shared was that, by itself, AI is fairly stupid. So although the UK government acknowledges the importance of AI, humans really are the ones that can shape the impact it has and the direction it’s taken in.

Think about how you want to use artificial intelligence – what do you want to achieve by using it? Are you looking to simplify certain processes by automating practical tasks or do you want to use it to make decisions for you instead of humans?

The various ways AI can be used

The 4th Industrial Revolution has brought about change in the form of disruptive technologies. AI is an example of this disruption and there’s a plethora of ways in which you can utilise artificial intelligence. A few examples shared were:

  • Augmented reality

  • Chatbots – with or without an avatar

  • 3D printing generative design

  • Wearables

  • Autonomous vehicles

This then led to a discussion of whether AI would replace the need for humans. The answer..? Well, whilst nobody has a definitive answer as yet, it looks as though AI could replace the need for employees to carry out some manual tasks. There’s the potential that entire organisations could be automated – it’s just a question of whether that’s the route people want to go down.

How to prepare for, and use, AI

The second half of the event answered the question: “How do we prepare for, and use, AI?” Given that all data can be captured, Mark posed the question of where knowledge is stored in a company. Some people felt it was in the minds of the employees, others believed it should be found in the machines.

We then discussed the importance of AI by design. Given that it’s been around for 50 years, we need to start thinking differently about how we use AI – particularly as machines are less agile than humans. With the option to take AI in a number of directions, we need to start thinking about what we want the future to look like. This led us to look at ethics in AI and thinking about where the jobs will go, should machines remove the need for humans. As Mark asked, “What do we do with people that can’t retrain?”

Break free of cultural overhang

When it comes to technical changes, there’s a tendency to hold onto cultural norms. An example Mark gave was the kettle. Originally, the handle was on top. One obvious drawback to this is that, when pouring the water out, the steam burns your hand. Then when the first electric kettle was designed, the handle remained on top. Why? Because it was the norm. Now, of course, handles are on the side and hands remain safe but that wasn’t always the case.

The same can be said of AI. Just because it’s currently being used one way doesn’t mean it’s the only way it has to be used. Mark said, “We need to build the world we want, not the one we could get,” which is exactly the kind of thought process that should be encouraged.

“An eye-opening insight into artificial intelligence”

Taz Khan, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Computer Futures, said, “Mark’s presentation was an eye-opening insight into artificial intelligence. The event was the first of its kind and we were really excited to have a thought leader in the AI industry share their unique perspective, both academically and commercially. It was great to see our guests felt the same – with large clients, consultancies, AI & ML professionals, and even students in attendance.”

“AI is an unfamiliar territory and the ethical, philosophical, and environmental effects should be thought about well in advance of developing and implementing these technologies. A huge thank you again to Mark for his insights, and for staying behind an extra hour to answer all the questions following the Q&A.”

View Mark’s slides from his talk here and if you would like to find out more then please visit Mark’s website or purchase his latest book, The 4th Industrial Revolution.

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