Anthropology + Technology
Together for socially-responsible AI
The Anthropology + Technology Conference happened for the first time the 3rd of October 2019 in Bristol, United Kingdom. The conference featured speakers from a range of interdisciplinary backgrounds ranging from computer science; law; hackers; sociologists; psychologists; artists; media scholars; data scientists and more. It was a collection of a diverse range of individuals that had a keen interest in the topic of anthropology and technology. There were many talks at the conference and I would like to run through a few in chronological order.
From DeepMind Technologies to the Nonprofit Sector
Dr Julien Cornebise is an Honorary Associate Professor at University College London. Most recently he was Director of Research at Element AI’s London office, with a focus on AI for Good. Julien joined DeepMind Technologies Limited (later acquired by Google) in 2012 as an early employee. In his four years at DeepMind, he led some fundamental research directions used in early demos and fundraising, and helped to create and lead its Health Applied Research Team.
Julien talked about his journey and how he had become increasingly involved in the nonprofit sector as well as how developers or programmers working on artificial intelligence were increasingly choosing to spend their time wanting to do meaningful work instead of or in addition to the work they are already doing with the technology companies that they are with.
Dr Simon Roberts started the UK’s first dedicated ethnographic research company, Ideas Bazaar, before leading an R&D team at Intel’s Digital Health Group. Simon’s book on embodied knowledge, aimed the general reader, Hard Wired: How Our Bodies Acquire Knowledge and Why We Should Learn to Trust Our Instincts, will be published by Bonnier in 2020.
His talk went through the different conceptual frameworks and theories that he had worked out in regards to understanding embodied knowledge and thus our intelligence. He criticised artificial intelligence for not being able to solve simple tasks and marvelled at the way our human body works.
Intelligent technology and Bioanthropology
Joanna J Bryson is an Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath. At Bath, Joanna founded and led for several years the Intelligent Systems research group. Her research topics vary from artificial intelligence, autonomy, robots ethics, and human cooperation.
She had experience working with artificial intelligence from a legal perspective, policy-making and technical understanding. As such she claimed that we had to be focused on both sustainability and inequality. She talked about growing the pie and also distributing the pie. Artificial intelligence can be used differently.
The Data Makers
Gloria is a Research Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)’s Faculty of Law and Criminology and Co-Director of the Law, Science, Technology and Society (LSTS) Research Group, and a member of the Brussels Privacy Hub (BPH).
Gloria talked about how people’s perception of what data is may often be wrong. She asked the audience several times to close our eyes and imagine what data would look like. Data is not a one time transaction and it is not informed simply by giving consent.
The Anthropologist Building Tech
Roelof is one of the leading AI visionaries and developers in Europe. He is the CEO and Founder of creative.ai and Sunshine Lab. Creative.ai brings artificial intelligence to studios and agencies in creative industries around the world, using a combination of machine learning, computational intelligence and creativity, classical A.I., a wide range of generative or procedural techniques, and a strong focus on human-computer interaction. Sunshine Lab builds products to help tackle the most pressing issue of our time, climate change.
During his talk Roelof brought statistics regarding the process of the climate change so far and a clear picture of how much change it would take to shift the course that we are currently on. With a practical and pragmatic approach Roelof showed a series of different prototypes and encouraged the audience adopt a design manifesto.
In an attempt to sum it is hard to pin it down with a few words. All the speakers were really great and it was good fun to take part in Anthropology + Technology 2019.
This is day 122 of #500daysofAI. If you enjoy this article please give me a response as I do want to improve my writing or discover new research, companies and projects.