TechMunch: What’s coming up in (you guessed it!) AI?

In my first TechMunch I spoke about technological determinism, a bit heavy I must admit so for my next post, I wanted to talk about something a bit easier to digest – the topic of the moment, AI.

With less than a month to go until the AI Summit here in (at the time of writing) sunny London, there is plenty going on and with an AI programme recently beating six poker players to win $290,000, people are gambling on the technology in more ways than one. Seemingly everyone has their finger in this never-ending pie but these stories are (in my opinion) big moments.

Google vs. humans – Round 2

Firstly, Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo is back again to face the world number one player, Ke Jie. Following last year’s victory against the legend Sedol, Google is back to face the man ranked #1. Taking place in China next month, this will be another major milestone in the development of AI. And that’s not because we can all point and laugh at the loser, it’s because it allows us to gain deeper insight into how AI mimics the way in which the human brain learns, something that we can use across a variety of tasks and research.

It does however raise the biggest question, why would we want AI to be as smart as a human? Won’t it take our jobs? History has shown that while new, disruptive technologies take some jobs in the short term, they almost always create new jobs in the long term. Ultimately, AI isn’t there to take our livelihoods, but to make them easier.

If a doctor can analyse test results in a much reduced time frame leaving them time to actually deliver care, surely that is a good thing. If AI can help a business to be 25% more efficient and free up resource for new projects, a win all round. Even in PR, if we were able to process all reporting using AI, many hours would be saved each year and leave time for additional consultation.

During the event in China next month, DeepMind is also set to host a game between AlphaGo and a five-player team consisting of China’s best players – pitting man against machine to get a better understanding of AlphaGo’s creativity and adaptability. Well worth keeping an eye on the day’s events!

Tesla is the most valuable US car manufacturer

It was just announced by Wall Street that Tesla has overtaken General Motors as the most valuable automaker in the US. This statement is based on stocks and Tesla rarely make any profit – at the moment – but in what seems a very short time, driverless cars have gone from a ‘what if’ to a ‘what next’. Elon Musk has already moved on to getting to the moon but driverless cars are set to have a far more wide-reaching impact on society, so much so that all Tesla cars now in production have self-driving capabilities. Tesla is currently pulling over 5 million miles of data a day from the road and plans to release the Model 3 later in 2017, whether we like it or not, it won’t be too long before we see them on the roads and start to reminisce about the good old days of accelerators and clutch pedals.

Tesla isn’t alone in its ambitions either, with car manufacturers such as VW and tech giants such as Google not just dipping their toes in, but plunging head first. We are seeing a major shift from specialists to all-in-one companies. Technology – including AI – is now the common link between much of our everyday lives and new innovations. Car manufacturers are no longer the experts in automotive, Apple has moved far beyond the iPod and Google even further from the search bar. The specialists are far from being left in the cold, but are definitely playing catch-up to some of the well-known behemoths.


One of the earliest commercial uses of AI was in healthcare when IBM explored cancer care. With most conversation around AI falling under the ‘future gazing’ category, healthcare is an area that AI really can already make a difference.

One reason is the inescapable issue that healthcare institutions need to save money. Google DeepMind’s work with Moorfields Eye Hospital is a well-known example, where the reading of routine eye scans was carried out by a machine, leaving time for the clinicians to see more patients and handle their care.

A client of ours, NVIDIA, also announced late last year a partnership with the National Cancer Institute in the US to build an AI framework called CANDLE (Cancer Distributed Learning Environment), providing a common discovery platform to bring the power of AI into the fight against cancer.

In a recent paper by Google, it revealed that it had created a neural network that could analyse medical images of breast cancer and identify tumours with a greater degree of accuracy than human pathologists.

This may seem like just a list of examples (which it is) but what it provides is an indication of the notable advancement in progress – also reflected in a recent PWC report which details the way AI and robotics are transforming healthcare. It is not only quicker to detect disease, it is more accurate, more cost efficient and (lower down on the list of benefits) seriously impressive.

So what…

I know for sure that a few of our clients will be at the AI Summit and paying close attention to the streams of stories coming from the show. There is a lot of noise but what I hope these examples show is concrete evidence of what AI has done and what it could do. Harking back to the topic of my first TechMunch, humans aren’t being displaced by this technology, it’s helping us to improve – and surely that’s not a bad thing?

Charlie Crockwell, Account Manager, Technology