Saturday, February 24

Davos Watch: updates on AI at WEF’s annual shindig

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It’s that time of year again, when global and political elites meet in the Swiss resort town of Davos to discuss the future of the world and its economies.

Automation in the fourth industrial revolution has been a hot topic for years now, and this year is no different. MarketBrains is rounding up commentary as the event unfolds. We’re updating this post live-blog style as information rolls in.

Cognizant Center for the Future of Work ran a session “Fear not the Bot”,  serving up food for thought on ways organizations can seize the new opportunities that will be unleashed by AI and automation.

Igor Tulchinsky, chairman, CEO and founder of WorldQuant, led a session on the role that technology and algorithms can play in benefiting society. He said: “Applying a quantitative lens to the world’s problems can only benefit society.” (from Linked In post).

MarketBrains interviewed David Shrier, CEO of Distilled Analytics and Associate Fellow at Oxford’s Saïd Business School about what’s going on from the Davos floor.

Caixin English, China will open financial sector this year, Xi adviser says: China will implement measures this year to meet a commitment announced in November to give foreign investors greater access to its financial sector, Liu He, an economic adviser to President Xi Jinping told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He made no reference to US President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies and his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But Lui called on governments around the world to work together to combat global challenges such as climate change, disruptive technologies and terrorism.

MarketBrains notes: lots of AI firms and the big tech firms that support them are going to want global policies that allow them to work as easily as possible with and in China. There are early forays by firms like Quant Insight, for example, to try and make connections, at least for more accurate data supply. 

UK media The Telegraph: British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to announce detailed plans for a national Centre for Data Ethics to provide guidance and consult on the regulation of artificial intelligence.

MarketBrains notes: whether or not the noise around artificial intelligence in financial markets becomes like high frequency trading, or algo trading in general, remains to be seen, but firms are treading carefully as long as there is a black box mentality towards technologies, warranted or not. It’s possible that global reforms like MiFID II in Europe and regulations on automated trading in the US will have already dealt with issues for future technological developments, but calls for regulatory scrutiny are likely to get louder, and how ‘ethics’ initiatives play out in a practical manner is in question. The biggest regulatory concern at the moment is data related in the wake of GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] in Europe. 

Iranian English business media Financial Tribune: In a bid to safeguard the world from hackers and growing data breaches—especially from nation-states—the World Economic Forum announced a new Global Center for Cybersecurity. Headquartered in Geneva, the centre will become operational from March.

MarketBrains notes: Certainly cybersecurity is a priority for financial firms in and of itself, but the use of artificial intelligence technologies in cyber is also important to watch for its applicability to the markets.

Social media analysts Talkwalker looked at “how the Davos echo chamber is resonating among ordinary people”. The top four Davos hashtags are: #WEF18, #Davos, #WEF2018, and interestingly, #IndiaMeansBusiness.

The two top key topics/hashtags linked to Davos over the last two days were #AI at 6530 mentions (developing responsible AI, AI for social good and when it will develop human-like capabilities) and #blockchain with 3139 mentions.

Al Arabiya English, WATCH: UAE ministers at Davos speak on regional plan for artificial intelligence: UAE government ministers spoke at WEF on Tuesday at a forum titled “Pioneering the Future of Governance in the Arab World.”

Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar bin Sultan Al Olama spoke on regional plan for artificial intelligence (AI), while Minister of State for Advanced Sciences Sarah Al Amiri told the audience that Arab youth must be involved and included in the decision-making process of Arab governments.

Deutsche Welle, Indian PM Narendra Modi warns of three major global threats: During his speech, Indian PM Modi argued that networked societies in the era of big data, artificial intelligence and robots probably had all the tools to address current challenges, but it needed a lot of political will and coordination to use these tools for the benefit of all.

Financial Times, fintech and cryptocurrencies: There are more panels on the two hottest areas of fintech, artificial intelligence and blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. At Thursday’s session on “The Crypto-Asset Bubble”, a regulator, a professor and two fintech investors will prognosticate on whether the boom in cryptocurrency prices was the start of a fundamental shift in how money works, or an overhyped and risky flash in the pan driven by fraudsters and criminals.

Indian media News18, Narendra Modi at Davos: Andhra Pradesh CM (chief minister) Chandrababu Naidu, who met with government officials in Zurich, Switzerland, says he wants Amaravati to be India’s centre of cloud management, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cyber security.

PM Narendra Modi is the first Indian PM to make an appearance at the high-profile summit in 20 years. He will lead India’s largest ever contingent of 130 participants and deliver the plenary session at the summit, a speech delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year. A meet-and-greet with Donald Trump, however, is doubtful with the US government shutdown clouding the president’s visit.

MarketBrains notes: India is clearly one of the frontrunners for artificial intelligence and machine learning leaders of the future. China and the US get a lot of attention, but India’s outsourcing economy is a force to be reckoned with. 

UK media the Guardian, the rise of the robots: The impact of AI will be one of the forum’s major events, with a one-to-one interview to be held between Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, and the chief executive of Google, Sundar Pichai.

The “fourth industrial revolution” will be a key theme once more, with a focus on how the loss of millions of jobs could undermine social cohesion. The way states respond to governing and taxing technologies and borderless business will be high on the agenda.

MarketBrains notes: Pichai recently said AI will be bigger than electricity or fire, while Andrew Ng, an expert, previously said that AI is the new electricity. We think AI is comparable to a calculator, rather, and it sometimes seems like these comparisons from experts have more to do with marketing than accuracy. 

WEF report, towards a reskilling revolution: One of the reports making the rounds is from the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group. It addresses types of skills needed as the labour market change rapidly.

Using big data analytics of online job postings, the methodology in the report demonstrates the power of a data-driven approach to discover reskilling pathways and job transition opportunities. The methodology can be applied to a variety of taxonomies of job requirements and sources of data.

MarketBrains notes: the news coming out of the report is that it’s identified women as being disproportionately affected by labour market disruptions, at 57%. However, modelled trends point to a potential convergence in women and men’s wages among the groups that make job transitions, partly addressing current wage inequality.

NGO media platform, Devex, the promise and pitfalls of artificial intelligence for global development: This week, as leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss how to “create a shared future in a fractured world,” many of the conversations will center on the role of humans and robots in a future of automation or augmentation.

The teaser for a breakfast conversation that Microsoft is hosting on the promise and pitfalls of artificial intelligence captures the challenges and the opportunity well: “AI offers profound potential benefits and the opportunity to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues including accelerating economic growth, tackling the urgent issues of environmental sustainability, and transforming healthcare,” it reads.

“But the accelerating pace of technology-driven change is also creating disruption and anxiety. It risks contributing to a sense of a fractured world, between a small group of people who benefit and a broader group of people who fear that they are being left behind. We need to come together to chart a path forward that ensures AI contributes to building a positive shared future for every community.”

Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, the organization behind the annual meeting in Davos, describes the new era we are living in as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Together with partners from business and government, the global development community could play a critical role in ensuring that we maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of this technological revolution, and the World Economic Forum is recognizing this with a session for civil society leaders on emerging technologies.

Thanks in part to conferences such as Davos, which draw attention to emerging technologies, NGO leaders know enough about AI to know they should care — but they’re less clear on the specifics of how it intersects with their work. “It’s as if we smell the stew, so we recognize it, but we’ve never tasted it,” a source speaking to Devex said.

MarketBrains notes: We’ve seen quite a few chatbots and robo-advisor initiatives that are aimed at unbanked or underserved populations, and observe that they look like a data play for profit motive to some extent. 

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