Wired Live is always such a great melting pot of ideas, technology, and new thinking. It was a real privilege to be so heavily involved in the 2017 event, and it didn’t disappoint. Over the two days, we heard some really positive, interesting stories from the speakers, and took part in some thought-provoking sessions and showcase demos.
A big theme this year was the state of the art in AI. And one of the things that struck me most strongly was the need for companies to experiment with the technology. Although it’s already capable of some remarkable things, there’s still a lot to perfect. Some of the key issues are around consciousness and bias, and the fair role that the technology should play in our society in the future. These are things that still need to be resolved if AI is to realise its full impact. But from speaking to attendees and listening to the presentations at the event, it’s clear there are some very talented people thinking about how we might overcome them.
I thought our interactive AI sessions did a great job of highlighting the issues in a fun and thought-provoking way. The "bot or not" experiment was an outstanding example. People were given samples of music, art or text and asked to guess whether it was written by a human or by an AI. The responses were fascinating—including my own! It was surprisingly difficult to tell the difference between the two. And, in fact, there was roughly a 50/50 ratio of right/wrong guesses overall. That’s a remarkable result for the AI, and it really struck a chord with attendees.
For me, there are two key takeaways from this year’s Wired Live. The first is the need for companies to think about how their use of technology can be more impactful on a much wider scale. So, how can they take the optimisations they’ve seen in their operations over the last few years, and use them to have a positive impact on society? I thought Joy Buolamwini’s talk about the AI Justice League was a really interesting example of that. It’s all about unmasking bias in AI and making the technology work for everyone. I think that’s going to be the real challenge for organisations in the future.
The second is the need for companies to be bold in thinking about the size of the problems they’re looking to solve. We’re in the age of “show me, don’t tell me.” It’s all about getting hands on, getting a few post-its and a marker pens and throwing ideas onto a board. And bringing different perspectives and multiple points of view together. So, it’s time to start putting the technology to work – for organisations, for their clients, and for society in general.