MWC19 Theme Report: AI

AI: Key Definitions, Assertions and Market Trends

PwC estimates that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could add $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030. With a multiplicity of definitions, applications and rapidly evolving capabilities, AI is a subject that polarizes popular opinion. Key protagonists in this domain remain divided in their opinions on whether AI will ultimately benefit society or destroy it.

As a simple definition, AI is intelligence demonstrated by a machine or by software. Intelligence measures an agent’s general ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments. Artificial general intelligence is an AI which can carry out any cognitive function that a human can. The important distinction between narrow AI and AGI involves goal-setting. Ordinary AI simply does what we tell it to. AGI will have the ability to reflect on its goals and decide whether to adjust them. It will have volition.

Automation could lead to an economic singularity. Singularity means a point where the normal rules cease to apply and what lies beyond is un-knowable to anyone this side of the event horizon. The arrival of superintelligence, where AI becomes truly autonomous and self-evolving, if and when it happens, would represent a technological singularity and would be the most significant event in human history, bar none.

The AI Geopolitical Arms Race

As one of this century’s most important transformative technologies, AI has become something of a supremacy contest among the world’s governments and global tech giants. Different approaches can be seen between the USA, Europe and China in terms of policy, public funding and strategic advantage. For the winner, technological prowess in AI will offer important advantages in terms of military muscle and international trade.

Source: GSMA

Democratising AI and Avoiding Algorithmic Bias

The conventional wisdom is that when it comes to bias in decision-making, artificial intelligence is the great equalizer. Superficially, it makes sense: if we delegate complex decisions to AI, it becomes all about the maths, cold calculations uncoloured by the bias or prejudices we may hold as people. As we’ve entered the infancy of the AI age, the fallacy in this thinking has revealed itself in some spectacular ways. The key to avoiding algorithmic bias is in striving to avoid discrimination (including that which is inadvertent) in the data that is provided to the AI in the first place.

Code that learns is both powerful and dangerous. It threatens the basic rules of markets and civic life. AI requires a new technical and civic infrastructure, a new way to conduct business, a new way to be together in community. If AI is going to be the interface between people and critical services they need, how is it going to be fair and inclusive? How is it going to engage and support the marginalized people and the most vulnerable in our society?

Currently, AI intellectual property is concentrated amongst a few global players who invest billions in R&D and acquisitions to stay ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, centralized AI introduces room for abuse, such as massive surveillance of people using face recognition and computer-vision-powered technology. Many feel therefore, that democratising AI is vital as a means of distributing control and protecting society.

Some experts are now suggesting Blockchain has the capability of decentralizing AI to achieve decentralized intelligence available to the masses. An extremely powerful combination of transformative technologies, the intersection of artificial intelligence and blockchain is an exciting but challenging new development. While the philosophies of the two technologies differ to some extent, it is possible that blockchain can be used to overcome many of AI’s shortcomings.

Reskilling and the Impact of AI upon the Workforce

Organizations looking to attract AI talent are finding expertise scarce and the competition fierce. Beyond the big tech companies, AI leadership is quickly becoming a necessary investment regardless of industry. The concept of digital badges for employees is growing. Companies such as IBM, Ernst & Young and Salesforce all have established programs.

Relatedly, while reskilling is an essential exercise, with the arrival of AI, operators can automate simple processes with powerful chatbots, increasing the productivity and revenue of customer service while providing a great experience and predictive service assurance. According to Forrester Research ‘Predictions 2018: Automation Alters the Global Workforce’, “As enterprises become more acclimated with automation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will take over low-value repetitive tasks and rote work. In 2018, RPA-based digital workers (i.e., bots) will replace and/or augment 311,000 office and administrative positions and 260,000 sales and related jobs to deliver enhanced customer experiences. Digital transformation spending will increasingly emphasize automation, and operating models will be re-engineered around it.”

Debunking the Myths vs Realities of AI:

Source: Max Tegmark, ‘Life 3.0’, 2018

AI Sessions at MWC19

AI: Beyond the Hysteria and Hype
Monday 25th February 2019 11:00 – 12:10

With a multiplicity of definitions, applications and rapidly evolving technological capabilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a subject which polarizes popular opinion. Key protagonists in this domain remain divided in their assertions on whether AI will ultimately benefit society or destroy it. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is an AI which can carry out any cognitive function that a human can. The key distinction between the Narrow AI applications we see today (in the form of Alexa, IBM Watson, Siri and others) and true AGI involves goal-setting and volition. Crucially, AGI will have the ability to reflect on its goals and decide whether to adjust them. While this is in itself an extraordinary feat of human technological achievement, many fear that Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) will one day go beyond this, surpassing human cognition. Examining the myths vs. realities of utopian hopes and dystopian fears, this pivotal session is sure to provide an enlightening debate on how we can harness the true potential of AI, exploring the rapidly changing relationship between man and machine.

Democratizing AI and Attacking Algorithmic Bias
Tuesday 26th February 2019 13:00 – 14:00

The conventional wisdom is that artificial intelligence should be the great equaliser when it comes to bias in decision-making. Decisions become all about the data, cold calculations unhindered by human bias or prejudices. Yet already, this perception has been revealed as a fallacy, with numerous examples of AI fails resulting from skewed input data. Without stringent controls, AI is liable to stereotype and amplify sexist and racist biases from the real world, reinforcing existing social inequalities for people who are already vulnerable. The key to avoiding algorithmic bias is in striving to avoid inadvertent discrimination in the data that is provided to the AI in the first place. Compounding this challenge, AI intellectual property is concentrated amongst just a few global players who invest billions of dollars in R&D to maintain their position of leadership. While its impact is ubiquitous, control is concentrated. Unfortunately, a centralized approach to AI opens the door for potential abuse of power. Democratizing AI means distributing control and improving the AI black box, detecting hidden bias and providing explanations for the automated decisions being made. This eye-opening session will provide an informed perspective on how we can work together to eliminate algorithmic bias and democratize AI.

The Ethics and Accountability of AI
Tuesday 26th February 2019 14:15 – 15:15

Widespread adoption of AI will change many of the basic conventions of markets and life as we know it, thus it follows that it will surely require some measure of public scrutiny and a new civic infrastructure. Elon Musk, is among the most vocal of proponents for regulating AI. “AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive about regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.” Elon Musk, 2017. Already today, in our impulse to automate, we are increasingly acquiescing power to machines. Algorithms provide a kind of convenient source of authority, an easy way to delegate responsibility, a shortcut we take without thinking. Yet in the still largely unfettered world of AI, we it is no longer sufficient to think of algorithms in isolation. We must also think of the shortcomings of the programmers who design them, and the potential risk associated with their usage. (‘Hello World’, Hannah Fry). No matter how powerful or autonomous technology becomes, it is still man-made and, therefore, man’s responsibility to ensure its application is ethical. Cross-sector codes of conduct, regulation and greater transparency are all key areas to examine here. This important session will evaluate principles for making AI systems safe for society and ameliorating any ethical shortcomings.

AI and the Operator Automation Opportunity for CX
Wednesday 27th February 2019 13:30 – 14:30

Gartner has predicted that by 2020, an astonishing 85% of customers will experience customer service without speaking to a human being. Investing in self-service will allow operators to harness the power of machine learning to increase productivity, automate simple processes and improve their customer experience (CX). Facilitated by rapid improvements in bot platforms, natural-language processing, and machine learning, in 2018, RPA-based digital workers (i.e., bots) will replace and/or augment 311,000 office and administrative positions and 260,000 sales and related jobs to deliver enhanced customer experiences.” (Forrester Research, 2018). However, bots are just one part of the story. Importantly, AI also enables operators to better anticipate customer needs, deliver personalised experiences and predictive service assurance. This highly practical session will explore the ways in which operators can profit from leveraging AI for automation and improved CX.

Reskilling for the Robots
Wednesday 27th February 14:45 – 15:45

Amidst the great debate over whether AI will replace human jobs, there has been less discussion of how it will transform corporate cultures. AI will demand a fundamental paradigm shift because it will forever revolutionise the relationship between humans and machines. Ever-more sophisticated robots will become informed, sentient collaborators. Reliance upon machines will also transform the skills that organisations seek to engender in human workers. Certainly, AI leadership is quickly becoming a necessary investment regardless of industry and organisations looking to attract AI talent are finding expertise scarce and the competition from big tech companies fierce. The good news is that improved techniques for reskilling existing workers to support digital transformation efforts are now beginning to yield dividends. In particular, reinforcing a culture of life-long learning and development, the concept of reskilling and promoting digital badges for certified skills for employees is growing in popularity. This essential session will explore the impact of AI upon the workforce and provide insight into how organisations can successfully create an AI talent pipeline.

AI at the Edge vs in the Cloud
Wednesday 27th February 16:00 – 17:00

Cloud computing has a fundamental role to play in the proliferation and scaling of AI platforms. Indeed, a symbiotic relationship can be seen to exist between the two technologies. IBM states that the fusion of AI and cloud computing “promises to be both a source of innovation and a means to accelerate change.” However, while cloud can provide AI with access to the data it needs and vice versa, latency is limiting in settings where connectivity is sparse or non-present, especially where operations need to be performed in real-time and milliseconds matter. With this in mind, companies are now experimenting with concepts and technologies that will bring artificial intelligence closer to the edge. According to ABI Research, shipments of devices with edge AI capabilities will grow fifteen fold by 2023, to 1.2 billion units. The share of AI tasks that take place on edge devices instead of in the cloud will grow more than sevenfold, from 6% in 2017 to 43% in 2023. This session will debate the prospects and use cases for AI at the edge vs in the cloud, offering vital insight for operators who are developing implementation models.

Intersection of AI + Blockchain
Thursday 28th February 2019 14:30 – 15:30

An extremely powerful combination of transformative technologies, the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain is an exciting yet complex new realm to be explored. It is interesting to observe the ways in which Blockchain can be used to overcome many of AI’s shortcomings, in particular to create decentralized AI marketplaces. This will be key in enabling people to comfortably share their personally identifiable information with the confidence that it will remain secure and private, therefore increasing the reach of AI. Additionally, by having a clear audit trail of the data used in the machine decision process, Blockchain can help to improve explainability, increasing transparency and trust in the AI black-box. This session will deliver clarity on the opportunities at the intersection of AI and Blockchain, providing a vision for how this combination of technologies could potentially be used to great effect by the mobile industry.