Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture 2017: Geoff Mulgan, Nesta

6 June 2017

The 2017 Dr Seng Tee Lee Public Policy Lecture was delivered by Dr Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta

6 June 2017, Jesus College, Cambridge

You can watch and listen to the lecture recording here:

This lecture looked at how the world can make the most of new tools for intelligence. The emerging technological possibilities are increasingly well understood – rapid advances in powers to observe, analyse, predict and control – thanks to progress in AI and machine learning, sensors, and devices of all kinds.

Some of the pitfalls are also fairly well understood – from abuses and misuses of data through job destruction to potential crises of public trust. But there has been less progress in navigating a path that can make the most of the potentials and avoid predictable pitfalls. Indeed some believe that we’re seeing a simultaneous amplification of artificial intelligence and diminution of the intelligence of some of our most important systems in politics, government, business and finance.

The lecture focused on three areas where this gap can be bridged:

First it argued that the world has a huge amount to gain from bringing together new ‘assemblies’ that combine better ways of observing the world, analysing, predicting and acting, linking machine intelligence with specialised human intelligence and learning.

These assemblies are appearing in a faltering way in health and the environment, and point to a future where for example a city could be collectively intelligent about a problem like air pollution, combining understanding, action and learning. But we lack good theories to make sense of how these should or could work; we lack people with the skills to design and operate these assemblies; and, crucially, we lack a viable economic base to pay for them.

The second theme was how we shape regulation and law to better enable new technological tools while also building public trust. The lecture will point to the lessons AI can learn from other fields, and how these could be incorporated into new kinds of ‘machine intelligence commission’, that tie together better understanding of technological futures, risk mitigation and public engagement. Geoff argued that if this doesn’t happen its likely that crises and scandals will become a major barrier to progress.

The third theme was handling of data. It’s wholly wrong to describe data as the new oil. But it is a vital part of every aspect of economic and social life, and crucial to the next advances in collective and artificial intelligence. Geoff argued that we have stumbled into ways of organising data that are unlikely to be sustainable or legitimate in the future, and will suggest alternative organising principles and structures.

All of these examples point to how the world could be more collectively intelligent about collective intelligence, and how we might avoid a widening gap between the technical achievements of artificial machine intelligence, and the actual intelligence of the systems on which our lives depend.

About S T Lee Public Policy Lectures

The S T Lee Public Policy lectures were established in 2003 thanks to a benefaction from Seng Tee Lee, Singaporean business executive, philanthropist and Honarary Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Each lecture considers aspects of scientific, medical or technological research and developments that are likely to have significant implications for public policy over the next decade.

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