Welcome note – UKERI – DST Conference

Welcome Notes

Anindya Chakrabarti (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad), Sheri Markose (University of Essex), Peter Cook (Deputy High Commissioner to India), Jovan Ilic (Head British Council for West India)

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Transcript: –

Sheri Markose

Good afternoon, everybody in the UK, good evening in India and good morning in the US. And of course it must be late in the evening everywhere else such as Malaysia where one of our partners is based. So welcome to this conference of the UKIERI DST on AI cyber risks and data science for FinTech and digital economy. The purpose of this project as a whole and of the conference in particular is to explore the scope for a UK India multidisciplinary collaboration in this great an up and coming field. I am the CO-I from the UK and based at the University of Essex and the CO-I in India is Anindya Chakrabarti, and if you can just raise your hand, he is at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. So the purpose of this conference and the project in general is to bring together leading researchers and practitioners from premier institutions in the UK and India and also inputs from elsewhere. In the UK, the universities involved include Essex, Bath, Leicester, UCL, Imperial College, and in India, we have of course their premier institutions, the Indian Institute of management, Indian Institute of Technology, Indian statistical Institute and Jindal. And not to put a finer point on it, it’s just a bang heads together, so that we can explore research collaborations in the near future.

Initially, of course, this was meant to be a face to face conference with about 25 of us meeting at Essex, in a closed room, and then we were meant to sort of feverishly talk to one another, get going on projects. Nevertheless, we kept the whole idea of nietos going in, in the format that we have, and we still have about 20 firsts involved, and also invited some eminent participants to contribute to this ongoing conversation on AI data science and digital economy. Our funders are UKIERI British Council and we have Peter Cook and Jovan Ilic here, who will follow after I’ve just finished with my overview. And another very important partner is Twimbit, who’s helping us with this whole dissemination. And I think they’ve done a wonderful job in a matter of 10 days to put it all together. And more importantly, they will help us with online conversations between ourselves, you know, producing videos, podcasts and so on. So that, of course, the view at the end of the day is to spearhead collaborative projects.

Right, so let me just give you a roadmap of what’s involved here. AI, as you know, refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, problem-solving, learning, and decision making. And it is part and parcel of what’s feeding into the FinTech and digital economy, which is part of this very large vista of the fourth industrial revolution itself, where the information communication technology has enabled a lot of developments and revolutionised the way in which information can be communicated and how agents interact in markets. And then, of course, it is all the electronic it is all algorithmic and when you contrast digital systems do I would contrast it with analogue systems where physicality is important. So the characteristics of digital systems is of course, the speed.

Very importantly, the low cost of digital replication with almost high fidelity appointed that’ll emphasise greatly would be will be the generation novelty using digital recombination in terms of time and space, of course, it is available 24/7 Unlike physical systems, you know, where we know retail shops and so on open and shattered spills, especially ties in online system is can be alive and kicking for 24/7 There are no physical restrictions and of course, no physical locus. I mean, these are both advantages and also create challenges as we will see, we bombarded with about the phenomenal success of narrow AI. You know, we’re given all these very, very breathless accounts of AlphaGo how deep learning and Deep Mind beats chess masters and so on. And one of the themes is precisely going to be about what Hector Zenil call the unreasonable effectiveness of statistical AI. And the reason why it has been so successful, something that we really need to get to grips with, this huge way in which information is processed and decisions can be arrived at is overcoming or overtaking, superseding human advice in the specialisms of humans is now being distilled into AI based software. And this is from medical diagnosis, who you would date. And of course, it’s now being distilled into humanoid social robots in interactions that previously were very intimate and private.

An important theme of this conference is going to be on the dark side of software based systems, it is axiomatic that any software based system will be hacked, you know, and the, in my opinion, well, a lot of people talk about robots taking jobs. One thing that we will focus on a great deal is about the loss not just about our jobs, it’s about our autonomy, our integrity, and of course, you know, the loss of wealth, where the digital systems can be hacked. So, to build sustainable digital systems, the key elements are going to be cybersecurity, ethics. And, of course, the new human discovery or invention of blockchain distributed Ledger’s, which bring about what I could sell what would sell for regulation, with it, the mutability, historical blocks of information, and that no novel blocks can be added, which is inconsistent with the previous blocks. So this sustainability is very, very important. So let me just quickly map the themes of our project with the sessions that we’re going to be having on the 13th and 14th. And I hope to convince you that this, and I hope many of you will agree that this is going to be a very exciting set of themes and mapped appropriately to speakers in our sessions later this afternoon. And tomorrow. The biggest aspect of a digital system is the digital infrastructure. And, the key element, there are what we would call unique identifiers, or digitised materials.

We see that in RFID tags, zip codes and more foundationally Gödel numbers. So Niki Panourgias is going to take us through the aspects of unique identifiers that would be needed to regulate an electronic financial system. The second part of a digital system is the algorithms award. And the most important aspect of this, in my opinion, is the algorithmic self assembly of digitised materials. I’m looking at this concept of Neil Gerschenfeld at the MIT, I mean, to say the fourth industrial revolution is about this aspect of fabrication, where programmes build machines that build robots, you know, so it’s, it’s in terms of financial systems and economies that would be self executing smart contracts. Harald Stieber will tell us about the chains of smart contracts. And, of course, the aspect of algorithms and software because they don’t have any fiscal locus. Dan Ladley will talk about the dark pools and fragmentation of information in these systems. We will, the second thing would be to do would be to talk about the forces for good, we will cover FinTech for sustainable development and for overcoming digital divide and financial exclusion, that will be part and parcel of the first session tomorrow morning, starting early at 9:30 our time, and we will have a number of speakers there exploring the ways in which FinTech has been used to overcome the financial exclusion and what is involved in having or using this technology for sustainable development.

To reflect this, the sign of the times, I mean, COVID I mean, you know, we have we have a very important session about the use of big data and big data model for epidemics and interconnections of social systems. And then of course, I would say the jewel in the crown, but very large chunk and theme of this conference has to do with the foundation of Intel general intelligence and AI. If you look at it, we are drowning in a sea of data, you know, whether this is a data science or socio economics, big data’s early on us. We talked about terabytes and you know, sort of a huge quantities of data that have been churned out on a daily basis, we need a unifying framework. And, and Eugene bignor has this fantastic concept of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics for this purpose of unifying or providing a unifying framework.

This is a theme that Hector Zenil uses in his, you know, to hear about the unreasonable effectiveness of statistical AI, you know, how, how has it statistical AI become as good as it is, you know, what would what would be taught that glorified curve fitting is as successful as it has become deep learning and so on, we have some of the best brains that you know with us. In our agenda, our programme with Karl Friston, he uses the free energy principle, as a means of giving this unified framework for cognition, intelligence, in general, and so on. I’m throwing my hat in the field as well, I say that we need to raise take the Gödel turing post recursion function theory more seriously than we have. It is about surprising that people who talk about computation and so on don’t know very much about the foundations of function theory. Because I will argue that certain elements of information processing that you would see in the most sophisticated digital systems, which is actually the genomic system itself, it is ourselves that reflects biology and genomic information processing is the most advanced and sustainable digital system. And many elements of it is exactly like you see on the tin of recursion function theory of Gödel during and post. And one critical aspect of what this has to do with sustainability of digital systems, is the fact that the DNA itself is a blockchain.

I believe there’s only one other person Abramoff pointed out that this case and, and sustainability, the proof of the pudding is in the fact that it has survived almost 4 to 5 billion years and scale, the protein coding components are unchanged for billions of years, right. So this really comes to the fact that at the heart of life itself are the most sophisticated system of bio, cybersecurity had, we have a lot of lessons learned from it. And it has implications for ethics, that the autonomy of the court and freedom from being hacked is ultimately going to be the most important aspect of ethics of AI.

And Bimal Roy, one of the great cryptographers from India, and with Mueller, and so on, we’ll be doing, we’ll be giving us a huge amount of insights into how this is going to be done. So there’s a bit for everybody. And in fact, you know, there’s going to be quite a bit of very deep, deep learning here, that will be found. So let me stop with that. Just to show you some, you know, social media pictures of this world that we’re walking into, we already there, this is the robo advisor scene in financial systems where, you know, robots, you know, you know, if you had a fund manager, or a wealth advisor, in the old days, you could take him out for lunch after his, you know, obviously made you some money. For here, you have a little spoof about saying, Do you think he’s gonna join us for lunch, I know that there’s the robo advice there. But that is already becoming, you know, part and parcel financial systems.

And then of course, you have all these things, humanoid robots we have this is, this is how the future is going to look at, you know, big eyes, empathic, they can read your mind, but of course, there’s a dark side about how a lot of this could then, you know, this is the singularity that I think Mueller would come to saying, you know, will any of this be sustainable? Will this become far larger and far more invasive, far darker than we ever expected to be? Okay, so that’s me done about giving you a new view of where we are coming from, how this maps to our sessions, and hopefully, convince you that you have a lot to take away from this. So let me now pass on to, Peter Cook, from UKIERI the British Council to Peter. Do take the baton from me and tell us your view of how this funding for this sort of workshops is all about.

Peter Cook

Thank you, Sheri very much indeed and good good evening to those of you who are in India, who are in Ahmedabad where I live. And good afternoon to those of you who are in the UK, it’s lovely that we can connect like these. This is one of the lovely advantages of technology. But it illustrates how important it is that we that we protect these systems and protect these particular processes. So I think there’s a there’s a lot we can we can learn from each other. And I really have only a few things to say I really want to set a little context for what we’re trying to achieve what we’re trying to deliver through these kinds of conversations. And also to say a little bit about how important it is.

We’ve just had a very, very important set of conferences and conversations here in India, particularly in Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s home state, we were supposed to have this this week, one of the flagship events, one of India’s trade events called Vibrant Gujarat. Alas, that’s had to be postponed due to the the COVID pandemic. It is another of the many, many victims that have had to fall to this particular thing. But we hope to reschedule this and and join it again later in the year when hopefully, the situation is calmer. But one of the things that did take place just before the Vibrant Gujarat was cancelled was an was an international conference of academic institutions, where they were the United Kingdom and India set out in a much more kind of comprehensive exchange, how it wishes to work together in the educational space, and to look across the breadth of issues and challenges and subjects where we know we can collaborate more. And obviously, we are particularly keen to find out those areas where our shared research, our collaboration and research can really make a difference. And so I’m particularly struck by how opportunities that we’re having this conversation so quickly after we’ve agreed to start that set of dialogues and set of conversations.

Today also a particularly significant day, and in a wider context. The Secretary of State for trade from the United Kingdom, Anne Marie Trevelyan and the Minister for Trade in India, Mr. Piyush Goyal today launched the negotiations for the free trade agreement. And this is a huge step forward for the UK, for India, the opportunities, the benefits that could flow from such a significant partnership is unquantifiable, we haven’t yet plumbed the depth to understand quite what this may mean and quite what this may allow us to do as countries moving together into the next age. And our partnerships are only underlined by our willingness to collaborate, our determination to exchange information in ways like this, and then obviously to build on that our future relationship as partners, as free traders, as people who can collaborate and share our experience, or wisdom, or science and technology, we can really benefit from that. So today is part of a much bigger picture. But nonetheless, this is such an important subject in its own right.

So it is seen as one of the foundational steps one of the founding stones of the conversation that we want to stimulate over the course of the next few years. It’s a huge area of collaboration. It has the support of both our prime ministers who agreed in May last year, a 10 year roadmap for how we might work together. So this is really another important step in that particular process. delighted that we can do this. And I am thrilled, genuinely and passionately thrilled that we’re able to do that with University of Essex, who of course are, you know, a primary business but with so many other wonderful partners, you’ve listed them already Sheri and clearly also working with some of the premier institutes in India, the Institute of Management and the Institutes of Technology, with the Indian statistical Institute, with Jindal, etc, wonderful body. I’m going to be slightly parochial and say of course, I am hugely pleased and hugely proud that the Institute of Management in Ahmedabad retains its number one status as the management school to attend in India, a little bit of parochial and favouritism, little bias. But just to emphasise that this is exactly the level and the depth of conversation that we want to have. My second point really is to say, I cannot imagine a more valuable set of topics to cover in a conversation between you. When you look at AI when you look at data science, when you look at the digital economy, you could not pick a more interrelated but nonetheless vital set of conversations. And you’ve quite rightly highlighted the most Sheri, I can’t do any better.

We appreciate the challenges that the dark side represent. These are threats that our governments, our societies need to think hard about to protect our people. But we also want to take advantages of the huge opportunities that we may have and how we manage data, and how we share information and store information and how we can access that, really to benefit society, how we can analyse that for health trends, for future pandemics for future science and research, there is a fantastic scope. But as you quite rightly pointed out, that we aren’t drowning in a sea of too much information. And so it is really vital that we find good structures, good frameworks, good systems that help us to mine that sea of data in a way that is beneficial for both India and the UK. It is a fantastic era. And I’m excited, I want to go back and start studying this all over again. And I don’t have the time and I’m too old. But I am thrilled that we’re having the conversation. And then finally, just a very quick word of thanks to all of those who have been part of this wonderful process of bringing us all together.

This, I hope is not the last conversation, but just the first, we hope it will lead to other conversations and other programmes and other areas of partnership and collaboration that remains our ambition that we want to see these, these links. And these exchanges deepen and grow. So I’m delighted that we can do so delighted with Jovan and his British Council colleagues that have been particularly helpful in pulling this together to our colleagues at the University of Essex, who are joining us today, obviously, to IIM Ahmedabad, I’m very close to IM debate, it’s one of my favourite spots. And I know a number of the of the key professors there. And I wish I had more time to sit down face to face with them. But two years worth of COVID has prevented us from doing that. Hopefully that will change in the next period. But there are many, many others to thank, and we can’t list them all here. I particularly want to pay tribute to them all and say that we cannot thank them enough for helping us start this process. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s wonderful to see you all. I hope we’ll have a really fascinating conversation today. And then an even more fascinating conversation tomorrow. And then I hope we can use that to stimulate us by what we might do in the future. Thank you very much for your time. And namaste to everyone. And I look forward to the rest of the conversation.

Sheri Markose

Thank you, Peter for the great enthusiasm, interest and of course, exuberance and hopefully we can carry it all out as you would want us to do. Can I invite you on Jovan Ilic to take on the baton at this point.

Jovan Ilic

Thank you, Sheri. Thank you, Peter, for two wonderful introductory speeches, I mean, full of enthusiasm and sort of a much energy. So I’ll try and match the two of you, if I may. And I’ll speak very, very briefly, but in broad terms about the British Council, first of all, and then if Peter doesn’t mind, let’s say a little personal message to him at the end if that’s okay. I’m sure he won’t mind. I mean, I’m the area director for West India for the British Council and Peter is one of the deputy High Commissioners so we work very, very closely. And so I will come back to Peter, at the end, just in generally speaking about the British Council and why we’re kind of in this space. I mean, people very often ask, you know, what does the British Council do? And how do you sum it up. And that can sometimes be quite challenging, but I’ve kind of settled on two words. And the first word is trust. And the second word is mutuality. And I explained that by saying trust is what we tried to do and mutuality is how we achieve it.

Now, very, very simply, we work around the world, trying to build connections between people. And for me personally, and these kind of connections is a very existential attribute, for me, it’s one of the most fundamental things about being a human being which gives us purpose, which is, I think, quite relevant to the AI discussion. And we know it works building trust, but we also know that it takes time. I mean, UK and India have a very long mutually shared history, shared values and shared culture. Some differences, of course, it’s all conscious to have, but it gives us a good platform, datum reference the UK India roadmap, which takes us up to 2030. And it’s a big part of that it is upgrading institutional mechanisms that will enable us to set and achieve ambitious goals in all areas of cooperation, and to strengthen avenues for people to connect with other people in education, research and innovation, capacity building employment and culture, my favourite tool now in terms of the education, space and science research in particular, which is the focus of why we’re here today.

India does have some short what if you’re aware, a new education policy, and so the big part of what the British Council is trying to do in India with the support of the High Commissioner amongst others, is to kind of link up universities, institutions, as well as individual researchers, but also to work on in terms of the education, regulatory framework. And in particular, agreeing mutual recognition of qualifications till we can promote not only student mobility, but also exchanges and research and collaboration. That’s what brings us here today. And for me, it’s very, very important that the neutrality bird is not lost. It’s very much at the heart of what the British Council does. So it’s important that all sides have a meeting or the workshop or whatever it brings us all together, come with an open frame of mind to kind of learn to grow to change. Without in mind, I just want to mention a little comment about myself a little comment about Peter. first of all, Peter is a really good example of wellness works. So when we say for example, Peter, working with the High Commissioner myself coming from the British Council, Peter is one of those people that brings in openness to two departments to work very much together with that kind of mutuality as a kind of driver behind it.

And I’m a firm believer in these kind of making connections and partnerships that you achieve much more, and you can do on your own. So I just want to say thank you to Peter, and thanks for joining us, Peter. For me, it’s a shame that he said he’s in the end of his professional career, I would personally have loved to work far more with Peter been an absolute pleasure. We’ve had some successes in a very short period of time in the higher education space. And hopefully, we’ll have some more Peter.

Just to finish on a personal note, I don’t know how you’re feeling Peter. You mentioned earlier, I’m feeling really, really middle aged at the moment. Sheri. I’m blaming you for this. So I’m sat here thinking when you did your introduction, I did my PhD on artificial intelligence, believe it or not, are we going back now? Just think about where 25 years ago and I did it from a kind of talking about that, that dark side that you mentioned, Sheri. So I did it in a philosophy department that is very much focused on the existential challenges that AI actually raises. So what was really quite clear in your, your wonderful overview show was how much the discipline has moved on in the sector and the industry has moved on in those 25 years. It’s like, studying so I just sort of declared that personal interest. So thank you very, very much to everybody for joining. And I look forward to some really, really lively workshop. And I’m really, really pleased to be a part of this. And I should be joining some further sessions. So thank you very much. And on behalf of the fish Castle, it’s a real pleasure to be part of this and to watch the oxygen.

Sheri Markose

Thank you very much, Jovan. That is again, so much enthusiasm and sentiment portrayed there for artificial intelligence. Peter, I do enjoy the fact that you raised with Alan Turing’s mother, whose parents had the colonial Indian connections, right?

Peter Cook

Yeah, that’s right.

Sheri Markose

I didn’t know. I didn’t know that. That’s wonderful, bringing in these connections to India. So let me pass the baton on to Anindya who would then finally sort of wrap up the Welcome part of our conference and then we’ll move straight to the first session.

Anindya Chakrabarti

Thanks, Sheri. Thanks, Peter. And thanks, Jovan. already, we caught a lot of interesting points that we could discuss about, but we should move ahead and again, you know, I would like to welcome you all along with Sheri to this conference. I would like to thank the British Council and the Department of science and technology in India for making this a possibility. It has been delayed by almost two years now. But I’m very happy that we are both and me and Sheri discussed it multiple times that people will not show up. But we are very happy that all of you actually accommodated us and gave your time so we are really grateful for that.