DTX: AI, data and the workforce
Human experience is invaluable to businesses undergoing their digital transformation journeys, while technology should come second to understanding the people and work processes it can serve.
These were some of the key points made by speakers at the recent DTX Europe conference, which saw business executives and tech leaders join people dressed like Storm Troopers and Chewbacca from Star Wars – to discuss key digital trends.
AI is the forefront of these challenges. While the likes of ChatGPT can be leveraged to automate processes and hasten the analysis of technical information, at this year’s digital transformation event, Hannah Fry, British author and mathematician said a lived experience simply cannot be replicated in a machine, and that’s humanity’s superpower. Investing in a diverse workforce was also high on the agenda.
AI found wanting
Irish comedian and television presenter Dara O’Briain kicked-off the second day with a keynote —and a joke or two — alongside British mathematician and author Hannah Fry. The pair examined artificial intelligence and the value of human experience in an era of machines.
In comedic spirit, the Mock the Week co-presenter welcomed delegates pretending not to know the first thing about the event. But when it came to the topic of generational AI, O’Briain said that OpenAI’s ChatGPT lacks intention.
“It [generative artificial intelligence] can’t see what we want it to do, and that’s the problem.
“I will know what to change when I’m performing because I can see in your brain, to a certain extent, and that I don’t think it can do.”
Fry agreed. She claimed that a lived experience cannot be replicated inside a machine and this will always keep humans one step ahead of artificial intelligence. It’s what she called the “human-superpower”.
“Generative AI can pretend to have the skills of a post-graduate mathematician, for example, but it’s only ever the facts, it’s never the nuance and it’s never the context,” she said.
Generative AI also relies on huge amounts of data which Fry argued can do more harm than good. It can actually lead to more untrustworthy results.
“This false idea has appeared that the more data you get, the better.” But if you do enough tests and there’s a little bit of error in each one, she said you’ll eventually find a theme of junk results.
Invest in diversity
Diversity and inclusion are also key concerns for businesses undergoing transformation, but installing and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce will be key to instilling innovation in the future, according to Wincie Wong.
Wong — head of Workplace Tech Capability at Digital X, Natwest — educated herself out of poverty. Speaking at the event she said that knowing who you are and believing in your value takes you a long way.
“I realised that all my differences are not my disadvantages – they were my superpowers,” she told delegates.
“My real passion is to create pathways for others to do the same, break through all these preconceived ideas and ultimately help a 300-year-old bank meet the needs of a changing world.”
According to Wincie, part of this change involves creating a bigger tech workforce and a pipeline of engineers that don’t all have experience in the tech field.
The advantage to finding talent in unusual spaces, people from all backgrounds, is that they are “resilient, change-ready and can learn the tech and get a commercial result”.
“This is diversity and inclusivity working at the heart of business strategy.”
The data conundrum
Data was a key topic discussed at the event, which took place in London’s Excel. For businesses looking to adopt new cutting edge technologies, the large amount of data needed can be off-putting.
That was the view of Gina Gill, chief digital and information officer at the Ministry of Justice, who said that she’s concerned about the possibility of sensitive data making its way into the wrong hands.
“There’s then something about storing data in the right place so we can use these tools to get at that data. We still have people that will put things in spreadsheets and it’s stored somewhere that people can’t access,” she said on a panel at DTX.
Gill added that it’s also difficult to recognise the sensitive data from the non-sensitive data: “There’s things that we might not know contain sensitive data, like our poverty data — is a floorplan for a prison sensitive?”
Businesses need to be vigilant when storing data. Sticking it all in one place such as a data lake for example may not be the best way forward. Businesses also need to ensure the quality of the data is fit for integrating new technologies.
The MoJ is in the midst of making its data easier to navigate for customers, such as policy documents. When sifting through the government body quickly learned that the quality of its data is not where it should be.
“All of a sudden you start to surface that there’s ambiguity in the documents which needs to be clarified before using technology,” said Gill. “You need to check the quality of your data.”
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