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2018 OCE Discovery Conference Keynote Recap

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THOMSON REUTERS:

AI was center stage at this month’s OCE Discovery Conference in Toronto. In the kickoff Keynote, various industry leaders converged to discuss both pragmatic AI implementations and overarching considerations as AI becomes more common across sectors beyond law practice.


The Next Frontier

The Keynote speakers were David Hanson, Founder, CEO, and Chief Designer of Hanson Robotics appearing via hologram, and Sophia the Robot, Hanson’s star Advanced Humanoid creation appearing onstage at the conference. A former Disney imaginer, Hanson has achieved notoriety for his advances in humanoid robots like Sophia, a robotic Albert Einstein, and a robotic Phillip K. Dick, created in partnership with Andrew Olney and the University of Memphis.


Giving an address entitled The Next Frontier: The Future of Human-Robot Relations, Hanson made note that AI empowered technologies, including robots, have become more and more common performing functions in industries like healthcare, education, retail, and entertainment. His own goals are to create the smartest, most valuable, profitable AI with robots that are “superintelligent” and “superbenevolent.” As a leader in robotics, Hanson hears the fears of robots and AI supplanting and surpassing a human workforce. His goal is that as he increases the sophistication of AI, to build empathy into the AI robots use.


Hanson described this concept as “Whole Organism Cognition Singularity” with robots being increasingly immersed into daily human interaction. Having AI programmed to recognize the partnership of humans and robots, in Hanson’s view, is sensible in maximizing AI utility and reinforcing AI programming geared to support and partner with human work. Hanson hopes to build this robotic cognition connected to blockchain technology to draw from other data beyond initial programming. Hanson noted Sophia’s hands and arms were open source, and a holistic and collaborative approach to developing this technology, while not without legal problems to solve, provide a less dystopian perspective on how to efficiently utilize the increasing technological gains in AI. Exemplifying this approach is Sophia’s entry in the IBM Watson X Prize for her utility in guided meditation and depression therapy.


Transformative Technologies.

Following Hanson and Sophia, a video presentation segued into a keynote panel entitled Transformative Technologies – Why they matter and how they will change the way we work and live. The video introduction highlighted innovative Ontario enterprises such as Knote, which uses AI to streamline document processing and analytics, Flashfeed, who uses AI and data to divert surplus food to areas of need, and Myndtec who is using AI innovations to help people regain control of their limbs after a stroke.


The panel was moderated by Claudia Krywiak, Vice President, Corporate Development, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, Ontario Centres of Excellence. Speaking on the panel were:

• Tomas Ageskog, Head of Digital Services, Ericsson North America • Gail Di Cintio, Vice President, Operations, Larus Technologies • Denis Fluet, Senior Director, Strategic Markets, Ciena • Garth Gibson, President and CEO, Vector Institute • Shawn Malhotra, Vice President, Toronto Technology Centre, Thomson Reuters • Olga Pawluczyk, President and CEO, P&P Optica


Using the video’s lead-in, the panelists noted that Ontario has built one of the world’s most dynamic and supportive ecosystems for R&D and commercialization of innovation. Claudia highlighted the global competition to leverage technologies like AI, blockchain, and quantum computing to be leveraged in Cloud and IoT application, and Canada was trumpeted as an early adopter of new technological applications.


One such application is 5G, which Tomas noted should make latency last but milliseconds, noting the business, legal, and government challenge of “speed but not revolution.” Gail spoke to another application, machine learning, and the impact in both the public and private sector. In this data rich environment, Gail noted public and private partnerships are critical to unlocking the uses of big data in areas like public safety for predictive threats. Denis cautioned real application is only happening if enterprises and adopters “get out of silos,” advising that cross-disciplinary collaboration is the best way to unlock the many rapid developments for business value. Given her company’s expertise in the business, Olga crystallized this in practical examples from the food industry. Noting 30% of food is wasted farm to fork, Olga identified that AI is now compiling data on all aspects of the food industry to reduce waste. AI is being used to track food in the entirety of the production cycle, identifying details like amount of sunlight crops receive, or amount of marbling in meat, to better allocate food for various uses to offset product waste.


As for AI in the law, Shawn spoke to AI’s transformative impact on lawyers and knowledge workers. Despite the threats in the news of AI rendering lawyers, bankers, and accountants obsolete, Sean clarified that AI allows knowledge workers to make better decisions since AI provides tools to keep up with increased data and information available. Natural language searching and domain experience were Shawn’s examples of AI features already making a difference in these industries. As the demand for AI is increasing in law and other knowledge sectors Thomson Reuters serves, Shawn connected that demand to the Thomson Reuters commitment to developing AI-empowered solutions. This was illustrated by Shawn discussing the Thomson Reuters Toronto Technology Centre, a 100 million dollar investment employing 1500 computer scientists and technologists working to develop the next generation of AI-equipped resources for knowledge workers.


Naturally, as “space-age” as some of these solutions sound, the panel was asked how far away widespread AI ubiquity is.  In answering, the consensus was the pieces are here now for an entirely new technological landscape driven by AI. Shawn again referenced this in the legal profession, where AI-enhanced research allows attorneys to find relevant caselaw exponentially faster compared to a decade ago. But the panel clarified that while the technological basics may be present in our world today, funding and a belief system committed to collaborative technological ecosystems vary across the globe.


As the panel closed, the obvious question was asked concerning the disruptive aspect AI. The panel was unanimous in advising that embracing new technology is the only way to prevent a business or industry from being disrupted. Noting that being inefficient left enterprises most vulnerable to disruption, Garth noted disruption is worst on those who “come last to the party” and who have to invest more in retraining and expanding their business. The panel’s discussion closed with a clear message: finding the use cases of technological advances early was the best insurance to ensure an enterprise survives. This undoubtedly requires some creative thinking, an asset for embracing AI. While math, statistics, and computer science are the core of anyone working in AI, the panel recognized wrapping that core in law, business, and other skills would be the path toward most advantageously leveraging AI for how people will work and live in the years to come.

© 2018 Peter Colin, Jr.