Exposing truth to expel ignorance

3 minute read
Artificial intelligence

The second module of the 2022 Oxford Executive Diploma in Artificial Intelligence for Business kicked off spectacularly.

A computer-generated move in game two of the famous showdown between the AI-driven AlphaGo player and the world Go champion, Lee Sedol (March 2016), shocked fans of the 3000-year-old game.

Now known as ‘move 37’, it is described as mysterious, awe-inspiring and akin to human creativity. The move was initially viewed as a colossal mistake in the game driven by human intuition until it was revealed that the move essentially led to AlphaGo beating Sedol. The global Go community emulates the move now as a new strategy created by an algorithm. But as AlphaGo’s creator, Dr Demis Hassabis, calmly explained last week in the Sheldonian Theatre, this was just the beginning. He turned his tools to generating 3D structures of proteins, all proteins in the known universe in fact – a feat that previously would have taken thousands of years.

The power of AI is upon us, and I think I even saw the figure of ignorance painted in the ceiling of the Sheldonian fade a bit further into the shadows. 

What’s next for AI to tackle: global conflict, climate change and disease? Perhaps ‘yes’ to all of those and much more. The main requirement to achieve these massive leaps forward for humanity and the planet must surely be to push our data scientists further to improve the algorithms, tweak the parameters, and create whole new data patterns – according to Professors Andrew Stephen and Martin Schmalz, not necessarily.

The tools and data are there now, and the computation power is ready and waiting. What is missing to make this positive change in our world is us. We, the leaders of medicine, banking, manufacturing, defence, government policy, financial adviserships, engineering firms and social media platforms, are the new shepherds of AI. We are responsible for bringing this transformational technology to impact the world’s most difficult problems.

We are closest to the challenges and can formulate the critical initial question. We’ll grow our AI intuition to ask the best questions that current techniques and available data can address. The questions will be aspirational, impactful, and global. They’ll be borne out of our frustration and the needs of our constituents and those without a voice. We must bring these forward as the first step in solving the world’s biggest challenges today. We understand that it’s our role and responsibility to apply ethical, fair, and balanced meaning to the question and the data used to feed the AI tools. We’ll bring novel, feature-rich data to uncover new patterns and creative solutions we, humans, have yet to stumble upon (a point punctuated by our in-class guest speakers).

AI is not exclusively the domain of the technically savvy. We must take a fully multi-disciplinary approach to uncover something unexpected – something beneficial and life-changing alongside our data scientist collaborators. As we nurture our AI intuition, the onus is upon us to stare down the world’s most needed solutions, craft the right questions and, with a bit of luck and some help from our new friends, create our own move 37.