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AI systems are ‘only as good as the data we put into them’

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Artificial Intelligence systems are only as good as the data we put into them,” notes a recent IBM article on human bias in AI systems.

Machines are not technically biased, but when data imputed to them is biased in some way, then any data regurgitated by the machine retains that deficiency. And until now hardly anyone has tried to solve this huge problem.

As IBM explains, the largest issue has arisen from bad data that can contain implicit racial, gender or ideological biases. But IBM also believes that bias can be tamed and that the AI systems that will tackle bias will be the most successful.

It’s all in the algorithmic model

There are over 180 human biases that have been defined and classified, and any one of them can affect how we make decisions. According to The Next Web, there are also “confirmation biases” (when a person accepts a result because it confirms a previous belief) or “availability biases” (placing greater emphasis on information relevant to the individual than equally valuable information of less familiarity). All of these can compound through the use of biased data sets, affecting the quality of work and the intended functions of AI.

A team of scientists from the Czech Republic and Germany recently completed a study on bias and AI. The research concludes that when human mistakes become part of the selection of a training rule that shapes the creation of a machine learning model, then we are not really creating artificial intelligence, we are just highlighting our own flawed observations.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, penned an article on the partnership between humans and AI, noting that the most productive debate isn’t whether AI is good or evil, but about “the values instilled in the people and institutions creating this technology.”

He noted six principles needed to be discussed and debated by industry and society alike as we delve further into AI. They include: fairness; reliability and safety; privacy and security; inclusiveness; transparency; and accountability. The application of these principles also entails weeding out bias, either intentional or unintentional.

Taking responsibility for the data

Here is an example of an unintended bias based on data put into a machine-learning system: An AI model for hiring recommendations is trained solely on the existing data and past employees. What if those employees are not diverse? Maybe they are all young white males? The resulting model would likely be unfairly biased against candidates who are older, racial minorities, and female.

The responsibility to eliminate bias in AI is going to be front-and-center as more AI-powered systems come into play throughout society. We will soon see vehicles operated by machines and a large number of surgeries and medical procedures will be conducted by robots. That’s going to put AI developers in the spotlight when tragedy strikes and people look for someone to blame.

The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab believes it is essential to mitigate bias in artificial intelligence systems if we are to build trust between humans and machines that learn. As the article says, “In the process of recognizing our bias and teaching machines about our common values, we may improve more than AI. We might just improve ourselves.

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Growing world-class scaleup hubs through global lessons

Dean Hopkins

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Dean Hopkins, CEO at OneEleven, discusses how global scaleup hubs can learn from each other in order to build outstanding scaleups.

Any time a new global city or region emerges as a technology or innovation hub, the inevitable comparisons to Silicon Valley begin. New York as Silicon Alley, Israel as Silicon Wadi, and Toronto was recently dubbed Maple Valley to much scorn.

But it’s time for globally emergent innovation hubs to look beyond Silicon Valley as they work to build scaleup success, with each location learning from the specific lessons of one another to help all players in the community succeed.

Outside the original Valley, collaboration, diversity and connections into other ecosystems are major strategic advantages for any hub that wants to scale faster – more connections, more funding, more talent, more resources and more stories to share to teach others.

Just look at Stockholm: With a population of only one million, it has developed more Unicorns per capita than any other innovation ecosystem outside Silicon Valley. Among other things, connecting into other major hubs helped propel growth and seed opportunity.

With OneEleven now established in the UK, we’re applying lessons from two leading hubs — London and Toronto — to guide our strategy and propel our value. Both cities embody hard-earned scaleup lessons, like specialization, building ecosystem partnerships and leveraging the power of diverse leadership, that we believe are key to ecosystem and company success.

Focus on growing the greatest verticals

London has built an ecosystem around its strengths.

The city is by far the leading source of fintech innovation worldwide: it has the greatest concentration of fintechs and the largest workforce in fintechit dwarfs everywhere else even New York. In the first quarter of 2017, London saw $421 million invested in its fintech industry pushing New York out of the top spot for fintech investment. The City of London has worked with a variety of institutions to rally behind this emphasis on fintech, bringing together government, educational institutions and various sources of funding to embrace the fintech ethos.

The lesson to be learned from London’s focus on fintech is that innovation hubs need to concentrate their efforts in certain sectors where they already stand out as a global leader.

In Toronto, we’re starting to see a lot going on in the deep AI tech space, through the Vector Institute and other organizations building on a research base of over 30 years by Dr. Geoffrey Hinton and his colleagues. Of course, there’s room for improvement. While research labs are popping up regularly, with big partners involved, Toronto and Canada are lagging when it comes to patents and application of AI tech. As we build up this sector of our innovation ecosystem, we have to develop a well-rounded AI industry that includes a robust IP regime to keep AI innovation in Canada.

Diversity in leadership

Both London and Toronto also boast the highest demographic diversity of global cities, and demonstrate how valuable entrepreneurial leadership from all over the world can be. Forty percent of London residents classifying themselves as other than white according to a 2011 census, and that diversity powers the tech and innovation ecosystem in the city. Recent research shows that immigrants and people from minority backgrounds in the UK are twice as likely to be early-stage entrepreneurs.

Toronto is similarly diverse in its population, and talent is one of the reasons the city is seeing global recognition as an innovation hub.

Canada’s fast-track visa program prioritizes highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs  and was created as a talent magnet for Toronto especially – last year MaRS released survey results showing 45 percent of Toronto tech companies made international hires in 2017 alone, and 35 percent of respondents used the visas to hire.

Other scaleup hubs could build valuable leadership and collaboration from a similar approach to entrepreneurship: one which looks to bring in more diverse, global talent on the leadership side, as well as the wider talent side. Scaleup communities have to be competitive on the world stage by inspiring people from all over the world to come and build their businesses there, as a lack of immigration and global perspective can starve an ecosystem of oxygen.

Culture of collaboration

We’re very fortunate in Toronto to have a culture of collaboration that starts at the earliest stages of entrepreneurship, and continues throughout company growth. There’s a strong expectation that you will work together, and for that reason, forming a community in Toronto is almost a matter of course.

Hubs like MaRS, 111 and the DMZ, for example, have opened up prime real estate to provide space for young companies to grow and to foster their developing businesses. Canadians have proven they are wired differently and Toronto’s collaborative and inclusive culture is one of its strongest competitive advantages.

In London, there’s a hyper-competitive environment for businesses, and perhaps not as naturally collaborative of an environment. That might just be because the city has only just recently seen an effort made to boost that kind collaboration from organizations like the Scaleup Institute and Tech London Advocates.

But collaboration between government, academia and business is one of the things that makes London a world-class scaleup hub.

Collaboration between groups tends to be verticalized in the UK, with TheCityUK being a prime example; the industry-led body that represents UK-based financial and professional services companies showed that collaboration between financial institutions and fintech companies can speed up the process of creating innovative products and services. By looking at IP, regulatory compliance, data protection and privacy, TheCityUK provided seven possible models for collaboration between banks and fintech companies.

Big scaleup success stories can also influence the effort to increase collaboration in scaleup hubs — and London has some amazing stories to tell.

Renewable energy company Bulb grew from 85,000 customers to 870,000 in the space of 12 months, becoming one of the fastest-growing scaleups in the UK. The company’s founders Hayden Wood and Amit Gudka are immensely proud of their place in London’s ecosystem. This is how how big names in a scaleup hub can advocate for an entire community.

For our part at OneEleven, we’ll work hard to build up that kind of collaborative community and collective effort as we continue to expand into London’s innovation ecosystem. We want to ensure that the success of these companies continues past their early stage, into growth and on into the billion-dollar club. The middle chapter is currently not being written in London — despite early stage support for companies and big success stories — and that’s what 111 is here to address.

Global scale through collaboration

Innovation hubs around the world can also work together to take the friction out of companies expanding between markets. Furthermore, cooperating markets can increase their competitiveness by promoting an exchange of innovative business practices, and reap the economic benefits that scaleups can bring to innovation ecosystems.

London and Toronto are a good example of global collaboration, as they the two cities have begun to explore greater cooperation when it comes to facilitating expansion between hubs.

The Mayor of London’s promotional agency London & Partners has opened an office in Toronto to better encourage Canadian businesses seeking to expand to consider London for their next destination, and to support UK businesses seeking expansion into Canada’s market. Over the last decade, the organization says 44 London businesses have expanded into Toronto and 118 Canadian businesses have set up shop in London during that same period.

This is only the beginning when it comes to proper cooperation between these two cities: government, academia and innovation hubs should work together to encourage scaleups in their efforts to expand between international markets.

Greater than the global sum of our parts

At OneEleven, it seems to us that the unique evolution, and now collaboration, between the London and Toronto ecosystems signals the rise of a global network of innovation that is in its early stages.  Such a global network, powered by the diversity of each market, promises to have a dramatic effect on the ability for scaling companies to access talent, customers, investors and partners much more easily.  We are excited to be a part of the rise of this globally connected and collaborative ecosystem that builds on what was started in Silicon Valley, but brings innovation into the more global and highly connected digital present.

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Robots aren’t taking our jobs — just yet

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A robot may take your job one day, but so far there is little sign of this happening, according to analysis from the World Bank. While there are predictions about machines taking more jobs associated with humans, the pace is relatively slow.

The rise of automation has been reviewed by the World Bank chief economist, based on data collated from a number of industries. The news is mixed. Most advanced economies seen a decline in industrial jobs since the year 2000 and a rise of robots, in other parts of the world, notably East Asia, there has been a net gain of manufacturing jobs and little sign of robots replacing these types of roles.

Overall, estimations of the impact of automation have been less optimistic. For example, in 2017 Oxford University researchers Dr. Michael Osborne and Dr. Carl Frey interpreted data which suggested that over fifty percent of jobs in a developed economy are vulnerable in terms of humans being replaced by machines. Similarly, the World Economic Forum forecasts that machines and automated software will be handling fully half of all workplace tasks by 2025.

In contrast, some other predictions are overtly positive, such as a report from Siemens, that suggests the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ will add billions to economies and that, instead of fearing robots, the drive towards automation will actually generate more jobs.

In relation to the World Bank analysis, World Bank’s Chief Economist Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, interviewed by Bloomberg, states: “This fear that robots have eliminated jobs — this fear is not supported by the evidence so far.”

To support this she draws upon the analysis contained within the World Development Report 2019, subtitled “The Changing Nature of Work.” The report is considerably pro-technology, indicating: “Work is constantly reshaped by technological progress. Firms adopt new ways of production, markets expand, and societies evolve. Overall, technology brings opportunity, paving the way to create new jobs, increase productivity, and deliver effective public services.”

However, as Goldberg discusses in the World Bank report, the range of different work undertaken will alter, with employees far more likely to hold several different jobs over the course of their careers instead of holding down a position with the same employer for decades.

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Proptech set to disrupt real estate in 2019

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The real estate industry is not only the oldest but the biggest of our business entities, and today, technology is starting to disrupt it.

There’s a word for this kind of real estate technology. It’s called “proptech,” a technology developed specifically for the property market. Proptech brings together multiple facets of the industry — from planning and construction, to the sale of a property.

Proptech platforms allow realtors to remotely present on property development and sale information, but this is just one small part of what can be done with this technology. The platform also includes online services that transfer digitized documents to the cloud (which can then be digitally signed) and allow access to regulations pertaining to a particular property.

How proptech works

Devin Tu is the founder and CEO of MapYourProperty in Toronto, Canada. Tu’s company makes use of a digital tool that gives real estate developers a digital interface to access layers of important information about a property, including zoning bylaws and nearby proposals.

To show how the proptech app works, Tu described how it served one client. “We had a client looking at a site in North York that they thought was ideal. But then, they used our tool, which scanned 25 different regulations and checked developments in the area in real time,” said Tu. “It turns out they had missed a key floodplain regulation.”

Tu went on to say the client almost got stuck with a $10 million piece of property he would not have been able to develop. The area remains a parking lot today.

Regarding the developing trend of proptech, Tu notes that the recent growth of the property industry has come about because of necessity. There’s a shortage of land and competition is increasing, forcing realtors and clients to make quick decisions.

Property industry plays catch-up

Frank Magliocco, a partner at PwC Canada who specializes in the housing market, told Mortgage Broker News that the real estate industry has been historically slow to embrace new technology.

“I think what you’re going to see now is a fairly significant ramp up in embracing that technology once it becomes more mainstream,” said Magliocco. “It’ll be increasingly important to remain and be competitive in the marketplace. Once you see these technologies prove out, you’ll see more and more adoption.”

It looks like Canada is going to end up as one of the next major regions for property technology innovation. Besides MapYourProperty, several large Canadian organizations have made announcements of their move into the PropTech space, including Toronto-based Colliers International and Brookfield.

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