Royal Society announces first details of You and AI series

10 April 2018

Leading experts in the tech industry, academia and civil society will gather at the Royal Society to launch a flagship series of events designed to be an open and robust conversation about the potential and pitfalls of advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The launch of You and AI on 30 April follows the Royal Society’s in-depth assessment of public views of machine learning which found that just one in ten members of the UK public recognised the term machine learning, even though the technology – a form of artificial intelligence – is already part of our everyday lives.

The report highlighted a range of public opinions on machine learning, depending on how, where, and why the technology was being used. Given the potential of this technology to both transform and disrupt our lives, the Royal Society and other industry experts believe engagement between AI researchers and the broader public is critically important.

You and AI is a collaborative effort to help people understand what machine learning and AI are, how these technologies work and the ways they may affect our lives. The series is supported by artificial intelligence lab DeepMind and will be hosted on four dates at the Royal Society in London before moving to a large London arts venue and finally Manchester later in the year.

Professor Angela McLean FRS, chair of the Royal Society’s AI lectures steering group said:

“The Royal Society’s research makes it clear that the UK public view artificial intelligence and machine learning with both optimism and caution. Many of us see the benefits of relieving pressures on health and social care, and we feel favourably about its potential in education and policing. At the same time, some are concerned about the impact of AI on employment and its ability to cause harm, for example by accidents caused by self-driving cars.

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence aren’t decades away – they are revolutionising our lives right here and right now. To ensure that the promise and potential of these rapidly evolving technologies are felt across society, we must inspire ongoing public debate.

“We can only harness the vast untapped potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning if we have the buy-in of the people it is meant to serve. The Royal Society encourages people from all walks in life to attend our series of lectures, where you will have the opportunity to enter an informed public debate on what we want machine learning to do, and how we can ensure it benefits all.”

The series launches on 30 April with a talk from British neuroscientist, artificial intelligence researcher and CEO of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis. Demis will discuss the history, capabilities and frontiers of AI.

Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, said:

“AI will one day transform our world and open up the possibility for breakthroughs in science and medicine that we can’t yet fathom. But, when you’re developing technology that could have such a transformative impact on society, it’s critical to engage with the public about the development and deployment of your work.

“We recognise that making a positive and ethical impact depends on far more than algorithms and data: it depends on the quality of societal debate and accountability, too. To get there we need to help build a genuine understanding about how AI could affect society so that we can anticipate and direct its impacts together.

“That’s why we’re supporting the Royal Society to open up the conversation around AI with the launch of this landmark lecture series, You and AI.”

Celebrated mathematician and Fellow of the Royal Society Marcus du Sautoy will highlight the applications of AI on 3 May, inviting leading experts from Microsoft, Apple and academia to showcase how AI can revolutionise healthcare, science and robotics.

A further two events will invite experts from disciplines as diverse as anthropology and philosophy to economics and law to talk about the socio-economic effects of AI on work and how its benefits can be shared fairly. The You and AI series will culminate with a major event to discuss the aspirations and concerns people have for AI. This ticketed event will be held at a large London arts venue before moving to Manchester, and further details will be announced later this year.