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AI Forum

Turing Prize Winners and Robo-Advisors

Kia ora Readers,

Welcome to our regular fortnightly round up of what’s happening in AI in New Zealand and around the world. We now have nearly 2000 newsletter subscribers, so if you enjoy our regular updates, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague who can sign up here.

Turing Prize Winners

A few weeks ago, the ‘Fathers of Deep Learning’, Yoshua Bengio, Yann Lecun and Geoffrey Hinton were jointly awarded the Turing Prize for their outstanding contribution to computer science. The pioneering machine learning research that these three carried out from 30 years ago is arguably the basis of much of today’s AI research and industry innovation. The AI Forum extends our congratulations for this well-deserved recognition.

AI-DAY 2019 Extended Programme 

Our extended AI-DAY event programme concluded last weekend with the AI for Good Hackfest supported by Aware Group and Microsoft. Congratulations to the winning team dAIversity  with their proposal for Ora which scraped social media and used NLP to identify and predict outbreaks of preventable diseases for refugees/displaced people. Overall, eight teams worked intensively on some fantastic ideas of how to use new AI technology to deliver better outcomes for the environment, society and humanitarian causes. The extended programme also included two days of deep dive AI technical workshops and the second AI Forum Working Groups Summit – a day of productive discussion and debate which is now starting to deliver outputs.  We’re looking forward to publishing content produced by our working groups in the next few months. A reminder, participation in the working groups is open to all AI Forum members,more details here.

Meanwhile, the videos from AI-DAY19 are now online, If you didn’t attend or missed anything on the day, they are available to watch and share.  Details of AI-DAY 2020 coming soon!

Other recent items of note:
Check out this excellent and comprehensive infographic: Visualizing the AI Revolution

Canadian AI entrepreneur JF Gagne released his annual AI Talent Report. It is essential reading for anyone researching and considering a career in AI and machine learning.

Key insights include:

  • The number of (self-identified) AI specialists is up 66% year on year, but demand is still high and supply short.
  • New Zealand is on the map… but only just.

The Warehouse founder and philanthropist Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 investment arm has signed a deal to fund the growth of Simplicity Kiwisaver. Part of Simplicity’s plans for growth include developing an AI ‘robo-advice’ platform that would be available to all Kiwis. This is another example of AI starting to underpin fintech innovation in New Zealand. Several other financial services providers have also launched or announced plans to launch robo-advice services soon.

Forum members X4 Consulting have published a white paper Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the Education Sector. The paper includes global trends and applications in New Zealand.

In our last newsletter, we shared Google’s announcement of an Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) to provide a diverse set of external perspectives to inform ongoing AI work.  However, less than a week after its launch, Google’s AI ethics board has been cancelled. Back to the drawing board but one thing this demonstrates just how challenging  (AI) ethics actually is to navigate.

Fresh from its recent report on Growing the Digital Economy the Productivity Commission is now embarking on a new inquiry into Technology and the Future of Work. This is a crucially important focus area to better understand how New Zealand’s workforce adapts to future changes brought about by technology. The Issues Paper outlining the key issues to be investigated is due to be published shortly and thereafter there will be an opportunity to share your feedback – if you are interested in contributing to an AI Forum submission, please get in touch.

AI-DAY presenter Anchali Anandanayagam from AI Forum member HGM is interviewed on her take on the legal challenge posed by AI in Newsroom, When Will We Start Jailing Robots?

US based Kiwi Mary Wareham from Human Rights Watch is currently touring New Zealand to talk about Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and the work that the international Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is doing to prevent their proliferation. The tour includes Christchurch, Dunedin and public lectures on 1 May in Wellington and 3 May in Auckland. Last year, the AI Forum supported the international call for a moratorium on these weapons and we are keen to encourage New Zealand Government’s active engagement with this crucial disarmament debate.

For a bit of fun, check out this tweet from @Nanogirl – I am not a Robot.

Finally, on a personal note, this is what I got up to at the weekend. After quite a few months of training build up, I completed this year’s Breca Bay of Islands swimrun race at the weekend, covering ~43km of running and swimming in just over seven hours. Fantastic day out in stunning, rugged and remote New Zealand scenery. Bit sore on Monday, though. ;-/

Best wishes for a relaxing Easter holiday!

Ngā mihi nui

Ben Reid
Executive Director


Attend Automation for Business on 23 May in Auckland. Discussion includes intelligent automation to streamline processes, increase productivity and improve profitability. Please email us for an AI Forum 15% discount code.

Attend the T-Tech19 conference, 6–7 May in Christchurch. Attend the 2019 IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, 10-13 June in Wellington. The New Zealand Esri User Conference is 12–14 August in Auckland.

Save the date for Identity Conference 2019 – Identity as taonga: now and in the future, 26-27 August in Wellington, exploring the concept of personal digital identity and what this means for individuals and organisations. The Canterbury Tech Summit is 12 September. The 2019 NZ Cyber Security Summit is 15 October in Wellington.

Sign up as a mentor and inspire girls into tech. ShadowTech is on 23 May in Gisborne, 7 June in Auckland, 11 June in Christchurch, 14 June in Palmerston North, 18 June in Dunedin and 27 June in Hamilton. Hack Tairawhiti 2.0 returns 17–19 May in Gisborne and is also looking for mentors to help companies accelerate ideas.

In local news, Southern Cross Health Society has announced a new digital assistant, a world first in health insurance. Meanwhile, Soul Machine’s Greg Cross and Mark Sagar will be presenting on Human AI and the Personalisation of Customer Experience at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June. Meanwhile, Hawkes Bay based apple harvesting robots have made international news.

Jean Francis Gagne has released his annual Global AI Talent report for 2019. The report shows the number of self-identified AI specialists has grown 66 percent. Plus, A Framework for Ethical and Trustworthy AI. Watch the highlights of the first session from the International Dimensions of AI, International AI Strategies – Perspectives from Europe and Australia. The AI Forum was part of the panel discussion in Canberra which explored national policies and strategies.

New research shows most InsurTechs want to improve customer experience. The rapid emergence of AI driven solutions including chat bots, digital human assistants, object recognition and voice biometrics are leading to more personable channels. Read the report by InsurTechNZ and EY New Zealand here.

The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) has published a survey of the European Union’s AI ecosystem. Read the chapter on AI in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook. Meanwhile, the Guardian asks, can we stop AI outsmarting humanity?

Let the bots do the jobs? AI as game changer for businesses, a report from the German-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce. Read this opinion piece on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) from Simpson Grierson’s Matt Bartlett. Watch more from top AI researchers on banning LAWS.

Read AI and Machine Learning in the Education Sector including global trends and application in New Zealand. Microsoft’s David Heiner recently spoke to the National Business Review on ensuring AI can work for all of society (paywall).

Cambridge University Press is publishing a series of books on AI for Social GoodAI and Social Work is now available and AI and Conservation is due for publication in June.

Will your next barista be a robot? The Economist reports on a new cafe in Shanghai were your perfect coffee ratio is guaranteed!

Watch the new Techweek19 video. Attend the official launch event on 20 May in Auckland or join the live webcast. Attend three AI Debates on AutomationEducation and Employment at Victoria University of Wellington.

Join EdTechNZ and TechWomen on 13 June in Wellington20 June in Auckland and 26 June in Christchurch to discuss how to achieve diversity in the tech sector. Registrations opening soon.

During Techweek19, explore the Maori Tech Showcase on 21 May in Hamilton. Join AI Forum’s Ben Reid on 22 May for Techweek TV’s webcast, How do we protect privacy and personal data? Don’t forget to secure your tickets to the NZ Hi-Tech Awards Gala Dinner on 24 May in Auckland.

Attend AI in the Medical Sector – New Zealand and German opportunities on 21 May in Auckland. Also during Techweek19, Big Ideas, Small Effort with Amazon AI on 22 May in Auckland. Alexa Skills Workshop on 23 May in Auckland, followed by a hackathon.

Learn more about Standards New Zealand (SNZ) and its role in the digital economy, including key future tech standards: AI, Blockchain, IoT and other emerging tech.

The Government Chief Data Steward (GCDS) is convening an Advisory Group on Trusted Data Use. The expressions of interest process is now open. Submissions for the Call for Code 2019 Challenge close 29 April.

What our members are up to:

GleeTech aims to make big data analytics simple for its clients. GleeTech are specialists in AI transformation and machine learning solutions. Check out GleeTech’s education, energy and transport case studies including forecasting energy demand and traffic surveillance.

In case you missed it, following successful trials AI Forum member @mytutoramy has now been rolled out. The AI maths tutor is designed to help schools improve student achievement in maths. Amy is a partnership with Jaipuna and the Open Polytechnic’s School Strategy division.

Be part of Scale-Up New Zealand, a free online platform for New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem. Everything you need to know is here.

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AI Forum The AI Forum brings together New Zealand’s artificial intelligence community, working together to harness the power of AI technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive and thriving future New Zealand.