Let’s not forget that Europe is an AI Superpower

Why we Europeans should not underestimate our strengths in AI

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Let’s not forget that Europe is an AI Superpower

Why we Europeans should not underestimate our strengths in AI

THE WIRED PULSE conference at the Barbican in June offered a fascinating snapshot of ground-breaking AI. The keynote speakers who came to this landmark location – one of the most striking examples of post-war Brutalism in the world – included the celebrated Oxford maths professor, Marcus de Sautoy, and Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google.

Other guests in attendance included Ai-Da, a humanoid robotic artist, and the Eva Robot, a photography bot that moved and mingled autonomously with visitors. Having met them, I can testify that both are charming.

At the event, I emphasised just how important we are in Europe – and how so often we underestimate ourselves.

We need to reflect on the strategic importance that Europe has in the world of AI, and not talk down our capabilities. Too often AI companies in Europe feel squeezed between the United States and China. OK, they are the superpowers, but we in Europe also need to believe in ourselves.

At PROWLER.io we’ve already made huge inroads, stealing some of the thunder of the international tech giants. We are currently holding 6th place in the league table of companies publishing peer-reviewed papers at NeurIPS (the world’s leading machine learning and neuro-science conference).

We are ahead of everyone other than Google, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Intel. We are the only company in Europe on this list – and we are a tiny company based in Cambridge, with only about a hundred staff.

We are punching well above our weight in terms of influence. If you look at our dollar spend on research and development, we are getting much more bang for our buck than most. In terms of R&D we are probably the most efficient AI company in the world. It just goes to prove that size is not necessarily the key to success.

Essentially that’s the story of Europe – efficiency and quality. We do both brilliantly. One of the reasons we can walk around the streets with phones in our pockets – and they actually work – is that we in Europe developed the GSM network in the 80s. It was a coherent, collaborative European project. The infrastructure was built as part of a team effort: our systems were no longer fragmented. The current AI industry reminds me of the way the telecommunications industry was fragmented – it needs to be standardised. We need to develop the equivalent of GSM – a GSAI. In Europe we are leading the way, we have the skill, the inspiration and the culture – and we should make the most of our opportunities.

AI has certainly moved on in recent years. I’ve watched the developments as they have happened and I am old enough to remember the dark ages, growing up in India and using log tables at school. And then came calculators – which I thought of at the time as pure magic – and the first early applications of machine learning. Now we are in the third phase of AI. At PROWLER.io we have started the application of AI in the commercial sphere with several partners – including a major asset company and enterprises in the education and logistics fields.

We don’t publish papers for our own entertainment – we publish them for solid business reasons. We have to be willing to have our maths scrutinised by the finest minds in the world. In the end it’s all about the maths. If the maths is wrong, everything is wrong. If you launch a staged rocket, the maths of each of those rockets has to be right. If it’s not, there’s no way you can get to Mars, or even the moon.

In the end successful AI has to be built on trust – trust in maths and trust in the people who’ve built it. It’s a team exercise: AI is powered by human intelligence and we need to make the most of it. Now, here in Europe, we have our chance – to get together and build on that trust for the future.

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