On Wednesday last week the Africa and Entrepreneurship Societies were very fortunate to host Tom Ilube CBE, who explored the intricacies of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the consequences of its rapid development.

Mr Ilube is a British entrepreneur, previously CIO for the internet bank Egg, and a current non-executive director of the BBC since April 2017. He has also been hugely instrumental in the founding of both the Hammersmith Academy and the African Science Academy, the first all-girls science and maths academy in Africa. He was named the most influential black person in the UK in October 2016.

Mr Ilube not only discussed the sectors in which AI is displacing people, he also spoke of issues such as driverless cars and related ethics, as well as the ways in which AI can begin to reflect societal priorities. Current concerns that the job market is inherently vulnerable in the face of AI are evidenced by its expansion into areas that make certain the obsolescence of jobs such as accountancy and investment banking.

The system which Amazon used to automatically assess CVs was one example he shared with the audience. It was used to judge who was best suited for jobs in certain tiers. The system developed an algorithm that ranked candidates by the syntax that they used. Unfortunately, this resulted in a huge disparity between male and female candidates and couldn’t be rectified, leading to its abandonment.

It is important to note that, despite the seemingly ominous prospect of AI out-competing humans in the job market, Mr Ilube was adamant that human innovation will provide new opportunities through a technological revolution. Moreover, he spoke of the importance of Africa not losing out on this opportunity and revealed his aspirations to create Africa’s first AI centre.

We thank Tom Ilube CBE for a really intriguing talk.