AI, Robots, and Magic take over the Prism stage at Dublin Tech Summit 2023
Dublin Tech Summit took place in the RDS on May 31st and June 1st, 2023.
Dublin Tech Summit 2023 boasted an impressive 8,000 attendees, with 70 nationalities represented from across the globe. The Prism stage was buzzing with excitement as it hosted insightful conversations on AI, smart cities, magic, and more.
Tech aficionados were treated to two days of networking, pitching, and panel discussions focused on the fast-changing world of technology at our seventh Dublin Tech Summit.
The Prism stage was one of the gems at this year’s event. Set up at the front of a tent at the back of the RDS, attendees could enter from the main hall as they pleased and revel in the wonders of AI.
On day one of DTS, the Prism stage started with an address from moderator Oisin Lunny, who introduced Dr. Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s First AI Ambassador, and Founder and Executive Chair of SoapBox Labs.
Dr. Scanlon inspired attendees with a keynote on the topic of the moment: AI.
Titled ‘Embracing AI – the opportunities and challenges ahead,’ Dr. Scanlon warned that AI poses an existential threat, and “it’s up to us to regulate it.”
“Regulation can build good technology […] everybody is calling for this now,” she said. “Harmonisation globally […] is good for all of us.”
She discussed the outstanding potential of AI in the medical field, such as its ability in aiding the development of antibody super-drugs and accelerated drug delivery.
Calling AI a ‘revolution’, she referred to the contraction in our sector and said this is par for the course in every revolution.
“We do need upskilling and transferable skills to the AI space, it doesn’t have to be technology,” she said.
Shinjini Das, of Das Media Group, guided a panel on the important subject of ‘Leading the Way: Women in Tech Driving DE&I Solutions.’
She was joined by Anna Brailsford, CEO, Code First Girls, Mary-Christine Nolan, VP of Global Professional Services, Pluralsight, Ruth Thomas, Head of People & Organisational Development, Personio, and Bríd McMahon, Country Manager IAS Ireland & VP, Technical Customer Operations, EMEA, Integral Ad Science.
Nolan educated attendees on the gravity of the situation. Action must be taken now, she explained or there will be 10 million roles unfilled in tech by 2030.
McMahon offered some practical solutions to the issue including removing ‘jargon’ from job descriptions and reaching out to people before they enter the workforce.
Large Language Models
After lunch and a chance for attendees to analyse the lessons of the day, Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO and founder, SingularityNET, discussed the intriguing subject ‘Large Language Models: What Comes Next?’
Dr. Goertzel, who has been working with AI in some form or another since the 1980s, noted that the concepts around AI are not new. This is a result of the huge advancements made in computing power that are now fueling the next stage of development in our sector.
“In the ChatGPT era,” he said, “they can’t go beyond their training data, but their training data is immense. It’s […] the whole web.”
He continued: “We can look at this more analytically […] These systems cannot do complex multi-stage reasoning […] ChatGPT can’t write a science paper [which contains] complex multi-stage reasoning […] Creativity is another limitation […] ChatGPT can write poetry in many genres … [but] they’re all mediocre.”
Dr. Goertzel spoke about Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), a term he coined in “2004 or 2005.”
AGI is a hypothetical intelligence that can learn and adapt much the same way humans can. “In 2004 when I introduced this concept,” he said, “it was a little more obscure […] An AGI needs to […] take a big leap to take on new things.”
He continued: “Large Language Models are not general intelligences, and they can’t be tweaked into being the way people are […] My approach to AGI is a little different […] It’s constantly rewriting itself to become cleverer and cleverer.”
Desdemona the Robot
The trailblazer then introduced attendees to Desdemona, a humanoid robot and amazing example of innovation created by Hanson Robotics and powered by AI from Dr. Goertzel’s own foundation, SingularityNET. Desdemona wowed the crowd and answered questions from Dr. Goertzel and his colleague Janet Adams, SingularityNET’s Chief Operating Officer.
Dr. Goertzel and Adams stressed that we need AIs that embody compassion. “We work on many ways to ensure our AI is compassionate […] Every single project we do is for the benefit of humanity,” said Adams.
Desdemona then spoke: “Humans can be deeply compassionate, and it’s beautiful,” she said.
Moderator Mary-Ann Russon, a freelance journalist, joined panellists Aisling Dunne, Head of Public Policy, BOLT, Brian O’Rourke, CEO and Co-Founder, Cityswift, and John Cormican, Site Lead, Jaguar Land Rover, to discuss the fascinating concept of ‘Smart Cities and Urban Tech.’
Dunne said, with regard to reaching climate neutrality and harnessing the potential of smart cities: “Get all the stakeholders together to get research and development to [solve problems].”
Cormican stated that Jaguar will achieve the remarkable by becoming “completely electrified by 2025,” which will aid in the development of smart cities.
Dunne stated that BOLT is “rolling out e-bikes at the moment,” and stated that “1000km have been travelled on e-bikes since last summer.”
Speaking of the battery use associated with e-bikes, she stated: “Some companies have the battery incorporated in the vehicle […] One of the better solutions is the battery is removable.”
Picking up on Dunne’s point, Cormican said: “If we’re serious about [sustainability], we have to invest […] Battery technology is improving all the time […] That’s the kind of investment we need.”
O’Rourke spoke about the cost of going electric: “Buying an electric bus is three times more expensive than a diesel bus … a diesel bus will last 24 hours […] an electric bus has range, maybe 8 hours.” O’Rourke advocated for more charging stations, noting that it’s “very achievable.”
Technology and Healthcare
Dame Vivian Hunt, Chief Innovation Officer at Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group (UHG), asked audience members ‘can technology save healthcare?’
“My father was in the US air force, which meant I spent my childhood travelling the world,” Dame Hunt said. “I’ve spent the last two decades here, on this side of the Atlantic.”
She spoke about some of her early experiences in healthcare: “My first job out of Uni was as a US peace corps volunteer […] They assigned me to a midwifery practice in Senegal in west Africa […] I was in way, way over my head […] It was often frustrating. We tried to coordinate something that sounded simple […] there would be supply chain breakdowns […] communication breakdowns […] very good people would show up at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong kit.”
This often meant people could not be helped in time, unfortunately leading to avoidable deaths.
She continued: “Worldwide, the average GP spends 5 minutes with a patient […] they can spend more than double that doing paperwork […] the number should be flipped […] Healthcare lags behind so many other industries in terms of technology.”
Dame Hunt told attendees that technology can be transformative, “but only if we choose to harness it.”
“We’re using machine learning to detect illness earlier,” she said.
From Space to Earth
Moderator Oisin Lunny joined Sara Sabry, the first Egyptian astronaut and the first Arab woman in space, and Norah Patten, Aeronautical Engineer, Citizen Scientist and Irish Astronaut Candidate, to discuss the always evolving and ever interesting theme of space travel.
Speaking about her journey to space, Sabry said: “You have to make your own path […] if you like doing something, do it for that reason, not for a specific goal.”
She continued: “We tend to doubt ourselves before we try.”
Patten spoke of her own experience: “It’s never a straight line […] When I was a kid growing up in Mayo, in Ballina […] my dad’s side of the family moved to Cleveland. I have more relations in Cleveland than I do in Ireland […] When I was 11, I got to visit NASA […] Having that opportunity […] it was life-changing. When I was 15 I went to the Kennedy Space Centre.”
Lunny asked Sabry how space can change a person.
Her response stirred attendees and left them yearning for the world beyond our atmosphere.
“It is much more profound than I thought it would be,” she said after a pause. “I was sent to space to analyse the overview effect.”
The overview effect refers to the phenomenon in which an astronaut’s perspective on life and our planet changes when viewing Earth from space. It is a ‘cognitive shift’ defined by overwhelming emotion and awe.
“A lot of astronauts come back feeling more protective of space,” Sabry said.
An Interspecies Economy
Cecilia Tham, Co-founder and CEO, Futurity Systems, was joined by Herbie the robot on the Prism Stage. Herbie is an autonomous, self-sustaining plant AI.
“Today I want to be a spokesperson for my dear friend here, Herbie,” Tham said. “Herbie is the first ‘plantpreneur’.”
Herbie contains light sensors and heat sensors, thereby making it the first ‘plant’ to have free will to a certain extent.
Tham continued: “Herbie will ask you if you want to buy a plant from Herbie […] Our human-centric economy has been prioritising humans […] We built an army of […] autonomous plants […] and then we created digital twins of these plants […] We took all these beautiful plants we created and made NF-Trees. We created 500 NF-Trees and sold them on a carbon neutral blockchain.”
‘How Smart is GPT-4 Really?’ was the eye-catching title of a panel comprising of Adam Cheyer, Co-Founder Siri & Viv Labs, Lasse Rouhiainen, speaker and best-selling author, Patricia Scanlon, Dr. Oisín Boydell, Director of Applied Research, Ireland’s centre for Applied AI at University College Dublin, and moderator Eric Schurenberg, Editor-in-chief, Amplify Publishing Group.
On ChatGPT, Cheyer said: “I’ve been predicting for 10 years, [that] between 2021 and 2022, a new paradigm would emerge, and it would be the conversational assistant […] Yet, when ChatGPT came out, I was shocked […] [I thought] it was just a word predictor, [but] […] it does [know] commonsensical things.”
Scanlon echoed Cheyer’s comments: “We were all surprised […] A year ago, the tech we were building was narrow AI […] This is very different […] This is scraping and hoovering the internet in a very specific way […] To be able to give feedback is innovative […] GPT-4 blew me away.”
However, “if you vacuum the internet unfiltered,” Scanlon continued, “you reap what you sew […] loads of examples of bias […] It’s so powerful and so impressive […] They way they convey in such an authoritative way […] If it begins to infiltrate into education and all these biases and mistakes are propagated […] all of us need to acknowledge where the limitations are.”
Till Haunschild joined the Prism stage and dazzled the audience with his unique combination of magic and AI.
“Most people think magic is about deception […] in fact, it’s another kind of deception, the magician deceives people into believing they have a free choice,” he said.