AI and Future Society: Azeem Azhar

Good evening and thanks for giving up the sun… I’m a technology entrepreneur I sold my last company a few years ago and I now spend quite
a lot of time investing in new entrepreneurs But as Geoff said, about three years ago,
I started a newsletter called Exponetial View because I reflected on 20 years in the tech industry and I saw that things were changing there was a moment of excitement burgeoning,
a combinatorial convergence of rapidly improving technologies Technologies whose way to improvement was actually increasing. And at the heart of those technologies were breakthroughs in artificial intelligence,

And at the heart of those technologies were breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, driven by breakthroughs in computational power
driven by some research breakthroughs That had given us a sense of belief that this technology could be useful. AI turned out to be the glue between a lot of other innovations and I saw that these incredible outcomes we could achieve could improve
healthcare, they could improve the way we finance things,
they could improve access to services Crucially they could also reduce our dependence on oil. So it was a very exciting time and I started to survey the world. But equally I became very concerned in 2015 about some things
that I saw as outcomes of the way in which our institutions were
working in the face of these technologies and those were concerns with inequality,
measured across a number of different dimensions, not just within nations, which we know has risen to record levels
in the past hundred years but also between companies – the most successful companies
are very much more successful than they have ever been the more mediocre companies are yet more mediocre. A range of risks around a polarisation of opinion
– the sorting, the homophily that seemed to be growing both in the digital realm,
and in the physical realm, bias around automated systems, problems of exclusion. I was not worried about the singularity about when machines become people,
I was much more worried about the market dominance of technology platforms. But overall, I was optimistic. So I am here now three and a half years on from spending time looking at this and I still sit there saying look – ‘AI does change everything’. The idea that we can put intelligence everywhere – decision making
according to context and environment in every fabric of our lives
– is a very hard one to get your head around but it is surely greater than the change that we’ve seen over the last 250 years when we’ve taken light from being a luxury that lived in one room in a house to being something that is everywhere. I actually have a little LED strip on the underside of my bookshelves
– that is an incredible luxury. And that LED strip cost me £4. My belief is that institutions now that we live with need to adapt or be re-born. And when I say institutions – I really do mean every institution – how we govern, how we figure out how we govern, how we teach,
how we finance innovation, how we chose to innovate ultimately, how we agree
– come to a consensus about how we should be governed. And my concern is that if we don’t adjust our institutions – what will happen? Well, if we don’t, the trends that I have identified around market dominance,
around inequality and polarisation, will exacerbate and they will asymptote. Now nature has it’s own way of finding it’s level The Bourbon’s discovered this in 1789 If you don’t fix things, things will fix you. Now I am extremely optimistic, because in the past three years,
in 2018, we are having very many public discussions about this issue.. In London and in other great cities and smaller cities around the world. And that gives me hope that we will reach some sunny upland. Thank you.

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