Saturday, 29 October 2016

Reports of jobs being lost to robots ‘scaremongering’ says expert group

A horizon-scanning report from the Future of Data Analytics Forum, hosted by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, contains key recommendations and observations on the direction of Irish and global data science research.

The conclusions are based on contributions from almost 50 attendees representing research, industry and government agencies. Companies in attendance included Accenture, Citi, Creme Global, Deutsche Bank, HPE, Huawei, IBM Research, Intel, Microsoft, SAP, Zalando. Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland also contributed to the event, which took place in Dublin City University on the 16th of September 2016.

Proceeding were led by Insight senior leadership and members of the Insight Scientific and Industry Advisory Boards.

A key focus of the forum was the role of machines in future decision-making. Data science is the platform research behind artificial intelligence.

“There has been lots of media speculation about machine learning and neural networks replacing human decision making leading to loss of jobs,” says Professor Alan Smeaton, Director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

“Automated decision making can only take place in a very small number of non-critical applications where there is no threat to human safety or no potential negative societal impact. Machine learning, especially deep learning, requires massive amounts of correctly-labelled data which requires human input at all stages. The Forum was firmly of the belief that this scaremongering is unfounded and that we need to embrace, learn about, and use data analytics techniques fully.”

The report makes general observations about the direction of data science and the particular priorities for Ireland.

The report states: “Data privacy and ownership is particularly relevant in Ireland given the companies based here whose business is about personal data and it is thus important that Ireland shows international leadership in this area.

“The data environment is Ireland is fast-changing, global and talent-dependent. Keeping abreast of technical developments in the field is not enough; Ireland needs to be ahead of that developmental curve. Ireland is investing in data analytics: The Insight Centre for Data Analytics is the largest single investment in a research program in the history of the State.”

The Report contains specific recommendations for industry and for the research community (see Notes).

“This is an important report for policymakers, higher education and industry,” says Professor Smeaton. “Ireland has the capacity to be a world leader in a number of data fields and significant investment has already been committed. However, there is more work to be done, especially in the brokering of collaborations between research and industry and in making sure that sound data science is applied in every field, not just industry. Healthcare, government and education can all be positively transformed by sound, accountable data use.”

Read the full report here