A couple of weeks ago, a familiar journey ended as I arrived at London ExCeL for Microsoft Future Decoded (FD) 2019. My dismay from delayed trains and dismal weather faded as people seemed to converge on the event from every conceivable direction.
What I saw
I dropped off overnight luggage and entered the main hall with a hot coffee and a keen sense of adventure. Over the last 3 years, the general format of Future Decoded, has not changed significantly. A large, open space accommodates Microsoft partners and sponsors, welcoming visitors to view and discuss their products and services. Towards the back of the hall, my Objectivity colleagues were already engaging with visitors on our own stand. In summary, the main hall provides many examples of what can be done by leveraging new and emerging technologies.
The general footfall in the main hall was interrupted throughout the day by keynote presentations and breakout sessions. Industry leaders and renowned speakers describe how companies are driving digital transformation in ways that were simply not possible a few years ago. I was lucky enough to host a theatre session with Gabi, our internal lawyer, sharing thoughts on the need for ethical AI frameworks.
Following the keynote on day 2, I wandered around, reflecting on the key messages for FD 2019. I recalled exhibitors and partners demonstrating what could be done. I remembered speakers describing how AI was being exploited. And, as valuable as these experiences were, there seemed to be a different emphasis on what was truly important.
In her keynote delivery, Microsoft CEO, Cindy Rose talked about empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Reflecting my own view of creating a world where everyone benefits from AI. Rather than just those who control it. I was reminded of the need to focus on people and the unique benefits that participation provides. Our own presentation promoted the benefits of assistive (rather than replacement) technology. Emphasising how human expertise, judgement and insights are critical success factors.
What I learned
The key message I came away with wasn’t what we can do, or how we are doing it. Rather it was why we must embrace AI, striving to do the best we possibly can rather than simply focusing on legal compliance. In summary, “Reward the right behaviours and you will get the right results. Reward only the results and you will get all sorts of behaviours.”1 We must remain vigilant of unintended consequences and the prejudice and discrimination that they can generate.
As humans, we have the unique ability to tell stories. To dream about a future that has not yet arrived. It is time for us all to influence, and contribute to, future outcomes with a relentless pursuit of ethical, unbiased and inclusive behaviour. This was my key takeaway message from Future Decoded 2019. My job, and yours, is to work together to deliver it.