Global entrepreneurs and innovators gathered in London last week for London Tech Week 2017 (June 12-16) – a festival of events across the city to celebrate the tech industry. Against a backdrop of smart cars, flying jetpacks and drone racing, leaders reflected on the need for meaningful innovation, beneficial artificial intelligence (AI) and responsible tech culture. We highlight the themes set to make the biggest impact in the months and years ahead.
- Man & Machine: At Human vs Machine – a four-day pop-up expo hosted by marketing news site The Drum and London-based real-time media agency Tug – panellists reflected on the challenges, opportunities and philosophical tensions that lie in store as intelligent machines increasingly become a part of everyday life.
“Human value is changing,” said John Ridpath, head of product at international tech education firm Decoded. “Productivity is for robots; what humans are good at is wasting time. Creativity, innovation and social skills are more important than ever. In order to survive, we need an education revolution – lifelong learning is the only way to survive in the age of automation.” See our 2017 Consumer Lifestyle Look Ahead for more on how self-improvement is becoming a core consumer concern.
- Beneficial AI: Meanwhile, London-based consultant and futurist Adah Parris examined how tech and AI can augment our capabilities and solve human challenges. “The way we talk about technology is a mobile phone – but it’s also a piano,” she said. “Technology is just art, craft and process. We have to start thinking about how tech can change the world, from a human perspective.”
Pete Trainor, founder of London-based human-focused digital agency Nexus CX, also stressed the need for “AI that embraces basic human conditions”. Nexus’s emotional support chatbot Su, currently in pilot mode, is a “life support system” to help men at risk of suicide. The app, which will run in any major social application, uses machine learning to intelligently chat, answer questions, check in with users and send life-affirming inspiration.
Microsoft product marketing manager James Murray also emphasised the brand’s commitment to using AI to augment and assist humanity. In May, the company’s research innovation director Haiyan Zhang invented the Emma Watch– a wrist-worn device that aims to significantly reduce the almost constant limb tremors associated with Parkinson’s. The device sends vibrations that cause the wearer’s brain to focus on their wrist, reducing the extra signals that cause muscle tremors.