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Key learnings from CogX 2019: The Festival of AI and Emerging Technology

Key learnings from CogX 2019: The Festival of AI and Emerging Technology

While still a relative newcomer on the tech events scene, this year’s third annual CogX festival of AI and Emerging Technology took the technology and business worlds by storm (quite literally – perhaps next year someone could use AI to predict the weather forecast?). 

Held in and around King’s Cross’s recently renewed Coal Drops Yard area, the festival was home to all things AI, with an interesting line-up of speakers from the academic, government and business arenas sharing their thoughts on anything from ethics and safety, through to healthcare, the workplace and innovation in general. 

With over 10 different stages and quite literally hundreds of speakers, unfortunately we weren’t able to tune in to all the talks, but we did attempt to capture some of the highlights:

Fireside Chat with Unilever CHRO, Leena Nair

As a talent solutions business, on Day 1 of the festival we were quite naturally drawn to the Future of Work & Education Stage, where we had the pleasure of listening to the very charismatic CHRO of Unilever, Leena Nair.

Nair offered some interesting insights into how HR’s role in leading digital transformation is evolving, such as:

“HR needs to be laying the road for the business to follow. And to do that, we have to digitise HR end-to-end: we have to disrupt HR.” 

“Digital augments human potential and enables us to do our job better – to do the stuff that humans are uniquely able to do.”

Talking specifically about how the world-leading FMCG business is utilising data to deliver a more human approach, Nair said: 

“We have to use data to talk tangibly about the impact of technology. No one will give you free money to play with if there is no business case.”

Keynote from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock

The keynote speaker for Day 3 of the festival was the Secretary of Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, who advocated the growing need for the UK to be pro-business, pro-entrepreneurial, pro-enterprise and pro-startup.

“Business done right a force for good,” Hancock said, highlighting the need for an environment that enables ideas to turn into businesses, and for businesses to turn into globally successfully enterprises. 

In order for this to happen, he pinpointed a number of steps that need to take place:

  1. Build strong foundations
  2. Create a system that delivers what it says it will
  3. Work with existing workforces
  4. Model and measure the impact
  5. Create partnerships that connect people.

In reference to how AI is changing the business world, Hancock said there’s a strong demand for “emotional intelligence to explain artificial intelligence.”

To further explain, Hancock used the analogy of healthcare professionals, who are highly versed in translating complex medical terms into simple, comprehensive language by empathising with patients and their families - the tech community must apply a similar approach, he said. 

Fixing Education for the AI Age, with CEO and Co-Founder of Wolfram Group, Conrad Wolfram

“Computation is for everyone” begins the enthusiastic CEO and Co-Founder of Wolfram Group at the Future of Work & Education Stage on Day 3. 

In relation to math’s place in the current education curriculum, Wolfram said we are taught to be able to solve everything by hand, but the emphasis should be on computational thinking.

There are four main steps in solving a math problem:

  1. Defining the question
  2. Abstracting the data
  3. Completing the answer
  4. Interpreting the answer

Wolfram argues that there needs to be more emphasis on steps 1, 2, 4 and less of a focus on 3, arguing that we don’t always need to know how things work, but we do need to know how to make it work. 

“We need to work a level above the machines, not on their same level, because we will lose!” he boldly pointed out.
Conrad said there needs to be more of a focus on tackling real world tackle problems in the current education curriculum, rather than solving clean problems by hand.

For instance, an interesting example of a challenge he proposed was asking school students to run a test where one group of the students flip a coin and record their answers, while another group cheat and try to make up the answers without flipping a coin, then look at the sequencing and see if they can tell which group cheated.

It was a pleasure attending CogX 2019 – thanks to the fine folks at CognitionX, particularly Tabitha GoldStaub and Charlie Muirhead, for delivering yet another superb AI event and we look forward to CogX 2020.

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