CogX: Getting Familiar With AI

On the 20th and 21st of June in London we were invited to attend the CogX conference all about AI's growing impact on our society.

We took ten of our girls who were interested to learn more about what feels like the imminent future that is artificial intelligence across so many fields including the creative industry.

Not quite knowing what to expect, or if it would all be way over our heads, we walked straight into a key note speech being given by Siavash Mahdavi, Chief Executive Officer & Founder of AI Music. Kenzie was soon tapping her feet to the 'trap' AI-remix of an Imagine Dragons song whilst also feeling unnerved, that her songs could potentially be manipulated this way. It was followed by a panel discussion on if AI could create music composition like humans and, if so, could it create theatre better than Andrew Lloyd Webber? And what of journalism when AI can aggregate data and information faster than any number of interns and string together impactful and informative news reports.

This session on News, Media and Entertainment was most closely to our hearts as a creative agency and though the developments of AI seemed both fascinating and terrifying the consensus seemed to be that it still had a way to go before it replaced humans in terms or true imagination, creativity or opinion. Though it may be able to create thousands of remixes at once or steal some of the jobs of Bloomberg style newsrooms (The Washington Post used AI to cover nearly 500 races on Election Day), journalists writing long-form opinion pieces can't be replaced... yet.

We then ventured into the Data privacy, Data Ethics and GDPR session. Dave Eggers' novel, The Circle, whose timely film adaptation is released this year, comes to mind when I think of sharing personal data, or how we might be obliged to share personal data on everything and who has the rights to that data. Was data to the be currency of the future, was it already? Will the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) be enough?

Like with most of the topics covered at the conference, I had quite strong beliefs and fears, though, to be fair, they were mostly based on works of fiction like The Circle or I Robot, when walking into them but I walked away demystified and somehow less troubled by the concept of AI. It seemed that sharing data, freely rather than having big companies own it, could make our lives even easier and get us what we need faster. Even Sophia, the world's most human robot, was kind, considerate and had a comedic spark I wasn't anticipating.

Another highlight of the first day for everyone was the session on mental health, a subject of importance to all of us no matter what our backgrounds. We discussed sophisticated chat bots that teenagers can speak to when they need answers or information but also how to create a 'happier' city when doing urban planning - it seemed AI could help with both dealing with conditions people developed as well as the root cause of them. Overall, however, it again seemed that we were a long way off from creating AI that could substitute good psychiatrists, though it could potentially supplement their work as people can often feel more comfortable sharing information with a computer due to its inability to judge them. The panel discussion raised some interesting questions on accountability - if a chat bot ill informed someone and it led to their suicide, for example, who was to blame? The bot? The engineer making it? The creators behind it?

That evening we attended the CogX Awards Dinner, where one of the awards was given by Sophia and we met more diverse people in the world of AI.