AI – it’s here. We need to apply it responsibly

Thursday, 10th May 2018

This blog was first published on PwC’s website here.

Guest blog by PwC’s Data and Analytics Director Stephen Mills.

PwC recently sponsored our Trailblazing Technology Conference. Here, Stephen discusses his key learnings from the sold out event.

My team and I were delighted to be a part of pro-manchester’s Trailblazing Technology business conference on Friday 23 March 2018.

The event was a great opportunity for businesses to come together to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and other emerging technologies can be utilised within organisations across the North West.

It was good to hear how local universities are investing in AI and VR. The University of Manchester now have over one hundred data scientists and is working closely with the legal industry (an industry prime for disruption from AI).

During the all-day conference we heard from Paul Knight at Mills & Reeve talking about the impact that AI is making to the Legal industry as well as Keeley Crockett talking about the innovative profiling solution “Silent Talker”. We also heard from Lee Dentith, Now Healthcare Group about how AI can be used in healthcare to detect ailments or medical issues from facial recognition.

In my opinion, there were two main themes that came out of the event:

1. The workforce of the future – how jobs will change, evolve or disappear

How we will see automation of some jobs that exist today such as the call centre agent or we will start to move into the augmentation phase where where experts have the assistance from Bots (or Co-Bots) to speed up and assist them on making decisions. We can see this might happen in the health industry where speed of decision making is essential for diagnosis, or even helping to decide what medicine to treat a patient with. It was also highlighted how this will help transform the legal industry where trainees will do less mundane jobs and focus more time on value-add activities in the future which will be more rewarding to the people involved.

2. Having the right ethical or responsible approach to AI is a key consideration when embarking upon an AI initiative

With the technology evolving so quickly and the opportunities to innovate appearing to be almost limitless, there is a risk that firms will apply the technology without the right ethical or responsible approach. Many high-profile data scandals were mentioned at the event, and we were reminded of why it’s important that firms are transparent on how they use customer data, and that explicit consent is given by customers. PwC’s UK AI programme leader Rob McCargow explored the ethical boundaries that firms need to consider such as;
– what decisions an autonomous car should make in a life or death situation,
– or whether a life support machine can be switched off without the consultant,
– or even whether the likes of “Silent Talker” should be used to make definitive decisions when profiling people or more realistically how they augment the expert to help make the right decision.

I came away from the day feeling positive and reassured that many organisations across the region are embracing the opportunities that AI and other emerging technology provides.

We are seeing real innovation, and a vision for the workforce of the future, as well as a considered approach to how it is implemented.

The augmented future is looking bright!

The meaningful thing for me is that this is coming from the human workforce, who are identifying how AI can be applied to their day-to-day jobs, although the key will be how this is applied responsibly for the benefit of the citizen, the tenant, the customer and the patient.

Our next conference will be our Big Social Media Conference. The event already has a stellar line-up of speakers which we’re really excited to welcome to etc.Venues on Friday 6th July. Find out more about the event here.