I had the very distinct honor of being one of the speakers at the inaugural meeting of the Atlantic Future Forum on cyber security and artificial intelligence that took place on HMS Queen Elizabeth on Monday 22nd October in New York Harbor. This was far and away the most unique and impressive conference venue that I have ever seen. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is a technological marvel and Captain Jerry Kyd and the crew were wonderful hosts.
Two key themes emerged for me throughout the day. The first was the importance of collaboration between the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as with other countries around the world. Dealing with the threats posed by cyber warfare and maliciously leveraged AI isn’t a problem for any one country, but rather one that we need to face together. The second major theme was the importance of collaboration between the private sector and the government. The more that we can do together, the better it will serve all of our collective needs in the long run. While these two themes might seem obvious, in a world that is increasingly voting to elect protectionist leaders and that sees large corporations at odds with their governments, it was nice to be reminded of the simple fact that we can do more by working together than by working apart.
My panel was, not surprisingly, focused on artificial intelligence and how it will shape the world of the future. We had an outstanding panel that included: me (Josh Sutton of Agorai), André Pienaar of C5 Capital, Morag Watson of BP, Dr. Brad Betts of Blackrock, and David Tagg-Oram of The Royal Navy; and was facilitated by David Bond of the Financial Times. During the course of an extremely enjoyable hour where we fielded questions from both David and the audience, a few key concepts emerged:
- The impact of artificial intelligence is going to be profound and it will impact every industry across the world over the next decade (and very likely create new ones, as Morag aptly pointed out)
- Artificial intelligence is evolving at a rapid rate. Providing entrepreneurs with access to both the continually evolving set of AI tools as well as meaningful data assets is essential.
- The data argument isn’t easily solved. While there was agreement that the future of AI will include tools that aren’t as reliant on large data sets (symbolic AI, etc), it is still likely to remain a critical requirement for any number of machine-learning and deep learning tools. The quality of data is also something that we need to better quantify — just because some nation-states such as China make data more easily accessible to entrepreneurs doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the “right” data to generate real insights.
- We need to see more collaboration between the private sector and governments as it relates to the advancement of artificial intelligence capabilities. Tremendous work is happening on both sides, but the general consensus was that in our current state, we need to better enable the flow of AI capabilities from the private sector to government.
Here were some of my highlights from the rest of the day:
- The day started with presentations from Liam Fox, the UK Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, as well as Admiral Sir Philip Jones, The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. They both gave great speeches focused on our need to work together as partners in creating a better future.
- In the first panel of the day on how emerging technologies are shaping our future and driving the need for military change, a few very insightful comments were made. The first was a point made by Dr. Chris Demchak who stated that it is inevitable that some decisions will be made by machines — the question we need to answer is which decisions and how much transparency should be provided. Another point I think is worth mentioning is that Rear Admiral David Hahn of the US Navy definitively stated that our governments (the US and UK) have to be first movers in cyber and AI and we will do that by pulling insights from the corporate world. The conversation also included an insightful observation from Commodore Ian Annett of The Royal Navy that the biggest uses of AI to date are in areas that people might not expect such as financial operations, logistics, and supply chain efforts.
- The next panel was a master-class on how to think about policy decisions with great input from the former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Dr Ian Levy (National Cyber Security Centre), General Keith Alexander (former NSA director), and Charles Forte (CIO of The Ministry of Defence). One point that General Alexander made that really has stuck with me is that the government needs to play a bigger role in cyber defense. Just as we wouldn’t expect a corporation to be responsible from defending themselves from missile attacks sent by another nation, nor should we expect them to be solely responsible for defending themselves from cyber-attacks initiated by another nation.
- In the next panel on cyber security, the conversation really focused on determining what is the right role for governments to play in defining specifications that firms should build towards versus allowing corporations to define their own standards. Somewhat surprisingly to me, there seemed to be a strong appetite to have the government take a larger role in defining these standards. The other point discussed was that we need to think about cyber security as part of everything that we build — not as an additional layer that gets put on at the end.
- Last but not least, Teresa Carlson of Amazon Web Services spent about half an hour discussing real world examples of how data is being used today as a result of the cloud services that are offered by AWS among others. The straight forward take-aways from this talk is that we have never been able to accomplish more with minimal investments than we are able to today as a result of the data driven world that we live within.
I walked away from the day with a renewed excitement about what we can accomplish when we work together. I firmly believe that artificial intelligence is going to change the world, but I also believe more strongly than ever that if we want to be the foremost leaders then we need to work together — both across governments and between the private and public sectors.