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Jersey ‘can profit from artificial intelligence’

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Jersey is in an excellent position to capitalise on artificial intelligence, according to internet expert Dame Wendy Hall.

Dame Wendy Hall

Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce talk on how artificial intelligence is transforming commerce, she said she’d learnt a lot about what was already going on in the Island, and while applying AI on a big scale to the UK was going to be hard, Jersey had a great opportunity.

‘On an island like Jersey, where you’ve only got 12 town halls, you can introduce stuff potentially in a way that you couldn’t even on a UK scale, let alone a Europe-wide scale or worldwide scale, so I think there’s a very good chance,’ she said.

‘There’s always been here a thriving computing community because of the types of industry you have here: finance, accounting, law, health – these are all at the forefront of the computer revolution and will be at the forefront of the AI revolution. The other thing that was pointed out to me is that you have fibre everywhere, high-speed network everywhere, and that makes Jersey a fantastic potential test bed for AI applications.’

Dame Wendy is Regius professor of computer science at the University of Southampton and a former president of the British Computer Society, and serves as a commissioner for the Global Commission on Internet Governance. Last year the UK government asked her to co-chair a review of Artificial Intelligence from the perspective of growing the industry in the UK, looking at what jobs would be created and what skills were needed.

‘My opinion is that there will be more jobs created than lost (by AI) but there will be winners and losers.

‘If you’re doing a repetitive job the likelihood is that will be replaced by AI, even repetitive in terms of brain power – in fact, they’re the easiest ones to be replaced by AI.

‘But there will be lots of new skills that this creates, just like the computer revolution has got rid of a lot of old jobs but there are lots of new jobs replacing it. It doesn’t mean that everyone’s got to be a machine learning programmer – the industry needs a lot of those, but there’s also a need for people who can help translate AI into existing businesses and also be aware of the regulatory and legal practices that are evolving around AI.’

Dame Wendy also had a warning about the internet, saying that although it was open and free and enabled us to exchange information or be entertained, it had a ‘real downside’.

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‘We’re seeing that come through now,’ she said. ‘It’s going quite toxic because of all the crime it’s enabling and the fact we’re all online all the time and the fake-news epidemic and bullying. We need to get a handle on what type of society we are building and the future of the internet is something under a lot of discussion as to how it is best governed.

‘How do we ensure it becomes a force for good in the future, stays a force for good and doesn’t just fall into the hands of people who want to do us harm?’

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has famously said he believes artificial intelligence is mankind’s biggest threat and needs to be regulated. Dame Wendy talked about the importance of diversity in the teams who work on projects and the data that is input. Artificial intelligence could increase efficiency and take out errors from human decision-making, but there was also the risk of algorithmic bias, where an algorithm took on the prejudices of its creators.

Gwyn Garfield-Bennett

By Gwyn Garfield-Bennett
Business Editor

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