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Strachey lecture: Use or be Used: Regaining Control of AI

Professor Neil Lawrence ( University of Cambridge )

Title: Use or be Used: Regaining Control of AI

Abstract: It’s said that Henry Ford’s customers wanted a “a faster horse”. If Henry Ford was selling us artificial intelligence today, what would the customer call for, “a smarter human”? That’s certainly the picture of machine intelligence we find in science fiction narratives, but the reality of what we’ve developed is far more mundane.                                                      

Car engines produce prodigious power from petrol. Machine intelligences deliver decisions derived from data. In both cases the scale of consumption enables a speed of operation that is far beyond the capabilities of their natural counterparts. Unfettered energy consumption has consequences in the form of climate change. Does unbridled data consumption also have consequences for us?                    

If we devolve decision making to machines, we depend on those machines to accommodate our needs. If we don’t understand how those machines operate, we lose control over our destiny. Much of the debate around AI makes the mistake of seeing machine intelligence as a reflection of our intelligence. In this talk we argue that to control the machine we need to understand the machine, but to understand the machine we first need to understand ourselves. 



Speaker bio

Neil Lawrence is the inaugural DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge where he leads the University’s flagship mission on AI, AI@Cam. He has been working on machine learning models for over 20 years. He recently returned to academia after three years as Director of Machine Learning at Amazon. His main interest is the interaction of machine learning with the physical world. This interest was triggered by deploying machine learning in the African context, where ‘end-to-end’ solutions are normally required. This has inspired new research directions at the interface of machine learning and systems research, this work is funded by a Senior AI Fellowship from the Alan Turing Institute. He is interim chair of the advisory board of the UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and a member of the UK’s AI Council. Neil is also visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield and the co-host of Talking Machines.



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