Principal's Lecture with Verity Harding from DeepMind

How will AI affect education? Will AI be able to mimic human creativity? Would advances in AI widen the gap between the developed and developing world?

These were the questions that were fired across the Princess Hall, sunlight shining in through the windows, as excitement filled the venue. 

On Saturday 14th October, we were privileged to hear from Verity Harding, Co-Lead of the Ethics and Society team at DeepMind. Her talk conveyed the importance of Ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI), urging us to consider the uses of new technologies to tackle some of society's toughest problems; from the use of DeepMind’s algorithm to manage cooling in Google’s data centre, which reduced energy consumption by 40%, to using AI to move patients through from test to treatment quicker, potentially reducing fatalities.

We were mesmerized by her wealth of knowledge as she continued to explain the breakthrough of AlphaGo and how machine algorithms learn from examples or from playing a game multiple times, taking on each experience through layers of neural networks in something known as deep learning. 

Ms Harding emphasised the need for more to be done to ensure that technological advancement is held to the highest ethical standards and that the impact on society is considered. She also discussed the challenges they face in bringing together academia, civil society, businesses and NGOs to put ethical standards in place across the field. 

Though change seems hard to achieve, she inspired us to question and think about the power we have to bring about change in society and encouraged us to change the gender stereotype in STEM-related fields. Her optimism for the future and technology encouraged many of us to further discuss this topic in our classes and to find a way to make a positive social impact in our local communities, from doing more to tackle the problems of social justice to starting initiatives within CLC to stand up for the values we care most about in society.

As a woman at the top of her field, she represented to us what could be done to change the future of the technology industry and make our world a better place.

Trinity Donohugh (SFC2)