Autonomous Systems, IIoT, Industry 4.0, Interviews

Industry of Things World Berlin Interview with Toby Walsh, Rock Star of AI

Dale Rickert, Portfolio Director at Industry of Things World, had a chat with Toby Walsh, Author, Professor, Speaker and “Rock star of AI” – who is shaping the future of the Industrial Internet prior to his talk this September!

About Toby Walsh:
Toby Walsh is a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence and is Scientia professor at the University of New South Wales and Digital Think-tank Data61. He has a BA from the University of Cambridge and MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Edinburgh. He was named by the Australian newspaper as a “rock star” of the digital revolution. Toby advocates for limits to ensure AI is used to improve our lives. He has been a leading voice in the discussion about killer robots, speaking at the UN in New York and Geneva on the topic. He is a fellow of the Australia Academy of Science and of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a Humboldt award winner and recipient of the NSW Premier’s Prize for excellence in engineering and ICT.

About his Keynote:
At the Industry of Things World Toby Walsh will be holding a keynote presentation with the title “The AI revolution – The future of jobs, knowledge and skills in manufacturing.”

Dale Rickert: We are sitting here today with Professor Toby Walsh, a leading thinker on the future of computer intelligence and described as a ‘rock star of AI’, toby will be joining us as the opening keynote for the upcoming Industry of Things World congress taking place in Berlin between the 23-25th of September and we are very excited to have him!

Toby Walsh: I’m excited to join you and all the delegates attending IoT World!

Dale Rickert: Now to start with, it seems that we are currently in the middle of what you could almost describe as an AI bubble; countless companies are finding ways to squeeze ‘AI’ and ‘Machine learning’ into their descriptions to gain investment and clients and the internet is awash with companies offering ‘smart services’ for almost any problem, but the principals behind AI have been around for quite a while, so what has changed in the past 5 years and what’s all the fuss about?

Toby Walsh: There are four exponentials that together mean we’re making real progress on the goal of building intelligent machines.

First, the doubling every two years or so of compute power, otherwise known as Moore’s Law. Second, there’s a similar doubling in data, which is helping support much of what we do today in AI via machine learning. Of course, the Internet of Things is only going to add to that trend! Third, we’ve had a doubling again every two years or so in the performance of some of our algorithms. Deep Learning is a particular case in point. And the fourth exponential is in the amount of money flowing into the field. This is also doubling every two years. Put all of these in a pot and you have a recipe for progress.

Dale Rickert: Do you think we are actually getting ahead of ourselves here, or could we be closer to general machine intelligence than we think?

Toby Walsh: No, AGI is still a long way away. If you ask most of my colleagues, 50 to 100 years, perhaps even longer. We have very little idea as we have only made progress on building narrow intelligence.

Dale Rickert: This is interesting, because AI hasn’t always had such a revered status, in fact there was a period in the 80s and 90s where it was almost a dirty word.

Toby Walsh: Well, it’s nice to come back into fashion again. There was some over promise in the 80s that led to a bit of a backlash. But this time, we’re having a real impact on real problems so I’m not too worried of another AI winter.

Dale Rickert: Some people say that we have reached a point in the last 5 years that is akin to the ‘primordial soup’ for AI. If this is the case what are the key ingredients that have allowed AI to thrive (if you haven’t already answered this in previous questions)?

Toby Walsh: Compute power, data and better algorithms!

Dale Rickert: Standing on the edge of this great AI revolution that we are currently experiencing, what for you is the most exciting development currently underway in your field?

Toby Walsh: It’s hard to pick on one area as AI is having so much impact on so many aspects of our lives. It really will be like electricity in this respect. But if I had to pick one, it would be the impact it is starting to have on health care.

Dale Rickert: Now to focus more on some industrial applications of AI, what advice would you have for a manufacturing company looking at injecting some machine intelligence into their operations?

Toby Walsh: Starting too big. Start small. Don’t start on a criticial path. Look perhaps to help strategic decision making first before you go into the operational.

Dale Rickert: Now on to your topic for the Industry of Things World Congress in Berlin, you’ll be covering the influence of AI and IoT on business models, jobs, roles, and team structures for manufacturing companies, can you give us a preview of some of things you will be covering?

Toby Walsh: I’d encourage everyone to come hear the talk. I’ll tell you what AI can’t do today. And what it can already do well.

Dale Rickert: If you could give advice to manufacturing companies on how to approach the following three aspects of their operations, what would that be?

Toby Walsh: 1. Business models and market strategy, 2. Human vs machine roles and skills, 3. Social corporate responsibility

Take the savings from AI to improve your product or service, not simply to reduce costs. Look to augment, not replace people. And where you do replace, look to reskill. And think carefully about the ethics of what you do. AI is powerful magic. It’s easy to encroach on people’s privacies and other basic rights.

Dale Rickert: Is there anything else you would like to add about your involvement and message for the upcoming Industry of Things World congress?

Toby Walsh: I’m looking forwards greatly to learning!

Dale Rickert: Well, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today Toby and we look forward to meeting you in person at in Berlin between the 23-25th of September.