On our second day at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) we focussed on:
- AI and the question of whether we can simulate the human brain. Dr Simon Thorpe from the National Center for Scientific Research in France talked through the Deep Learning Revolution and the feed-forward neural networks which can achieve human levels of performance in object recognition tasks (far quicker than you or me). That sounds like a form of Artificial Intelligence. But Axel Cleeremans tackled the issue of Artificial Consciousness. We talked about thermostats. They're sensitive to temperature and will change to reflect the room temperature...but they don't really care. To quote Axel, "they're faking it". Similarly, when IBM's Watson won Jeopardy, it was the team that built Watson that drank Champagne...Watson didn't...Watson didn't care. So it seems we'll be stuck with machines that are unconsciously intelligent for the near future. Doesn't that sound like a good thing?!
- Graphene and the revolution in two dimensions. It was a treat to hear Professor Kostya Novoselov talk about how the research he leads is developing and going beyond Graphene into other 2D materials. We tackled the issue of "Graphene Hype" and criticisms about the lack of Graphene products on the market at this point of time. It was fairly pointed out that in the space of about 10 years, Graphene has gone from being isolated on a piece of sticky tape to being the basis of ink for RFID applications likely to take off with the Internet of Things. It sounds like Graphene Lighting has a great future too!
- The right to be forgotten versus the right to know. The scene was set with a run through of how you ask Google to "forget" you and the revelation that Google only actions 43% of requests. There were arguments about a lack of transparency, a lack of oversight and no appeal mechanism if someone is forgotten (eg online articles referring to them no longer appear in an online search). Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Index on Censorship, highlighted major concerns about obligations to change archives which have arisen in mainland Europe - it seems like a charter to rewrite history. However, Laurent Beslay from the European Commission talked about the desire to build some digital boundaries in our online world, and how this should be supported by the new EU General Data Protection Regulation. There was a general conclusion that this is a legal and ethical debate, not a technological one. We're well aware of it!
Incidentally, before ESOF 2016 started, I asked the Programme Director, Vicky Rosin, which would have a greater impact on our future - Artificial Intelligence or Graphene. You can see what she said in our new video. And you can see what we learnt on Day 1 at ESOF here.