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AI wrap Friday 23 June

Victoria MacLennan. 23 June 2023, 11:19 am

Do we need a national conversation on AI? 

After returning from 10 days of holiday without reading much tech news at all I attended the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan Partnership Board meeting on Wednesday, a board I co-Chair, and one of the items on our agenda was AI. With significant industry leaders around the table hearing the passion, experience, well researched and thought out views  got me thinking - is it time for us to have a national conversation on AI and it’s role in our society? 

My worry is government will hide away in their buildings, with the best intentions in the world and consult with academia and one or two of the louder voices in industry, as they develop strategy, policy and maybe even regulation on AI - without hearing the diversity of voices we need feeding into this discussion, youth, Māori, non tech people, anyone who might suffer from the discrimination or advantage this technology might bring. The EU have been building a conversation with citizens on AI for a while now and have video’s like this one out as explainers. To get to the point we can have a national conversation we first need to educate the public, our whānau, our neighbours, our colleagues who are not living and breathing this topic in the way we do as an industry. 

You will have all seen the news that the EU’s AI Act moved forward last week with it’s first draft passing. This legislation includes things like a blanket ban on police use of live facial recognition in public places, has protections in place to combat copyright infringement - including the need to prove training machines complies with all relevant laws. We will all be watching as this progresses with interest and see how the EU can strike a balance between protecting citizens rights with enabling innovation to flourish utilising this increasingly interesting technology. 

I am really looking forward to my Fireside Chat with Rick Shera on July 5th where I will be asking him about NZ’s regulatory and legislative environment and is it able to protect us as this technology rapidly changes? And I will be discussing with Rick whether we need to have a national conversation on AI here in Aotearoa NZ. 

Other AI News this week

Will AI make us Stupid? The Guardian tacked this in it’s Big Idea series, reminds us of Wall-e’s version of an AI controlled future, and concludes AI will instead clear our minds of the “busywork” best left to the electronics and free us to truely reach our potential, even speculating the emergence of future great philosophers and scientists. Well worth the read. 

Conversely the World Economic Forum had an article this week Could Fear of AI post the biggest risk of all? They remind us that fear is healthy but the hackers are already arming themselves with everything technology has to offer. The article lays out an excellent argument and 3 point plan to combat fear:

  • Increasing  familiarity with AI
  • Learning to defend against cyber attacks
  • Narrowing the digital divide 

The Boston Consulting Group has undertaken a study into the impacts of Generative AI on business. In this they have advice for CIO’s and business leaders on how to approach the use of tools like ChatGPT in their workplace based on insights from businesses. 

Google is launching an anti money laundering AI tool for banks

Sticking with Google “DeepMind says that it has developed an AI model, called RoboCat, that can perform a range of tasks across different models of robotic arms. That alone isn’t especially novel. But DeepMind claims that the model is the first to be able to solve and adapt to multiple tasks and do so using different, real-world robots.” 

OpenAI plans an App Store for AI software

The lovely Aimee pointed me to Ben Reid’s Memia newsletter which is also all about AI. You can view it here. 

Meta have told us about their new generative AI model for speech to generalised tasks product - Voicebox - which commentators are saying Meta is too scared to release to the public. 

McKinsey report

McKinsey have released their report on The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier - with bold quotes like “Our latest research estimates that generative AI could add the equivalent of $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion annually” “and “estimates that half of today’s work activities could be automated between 2030 and 2060”, it’s packed with stats, insights by business function (like sales, customer support, marketing). Importantly for all of us they talk about Software Engineering - using generative AI to speed up developing as coding assistants and increase productivity - although they do not analyse the quality of software as a result. 

Finally from TechBlog this week 

Yes AI could help us fix the productivity slump - but it can’t fix everything


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