Three years ago I woke up in a hotel in the beautiful Norwegian city of Ålesund, gathered my stuff and set off to meet my old friend Andy Budd and a disparate group of thinkers to drive across Norway to Valldal and the Juvet Landscape Hotel, https://juvet.com/ well known as one of the locations for Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina
It was to be our home for the next three days to as we tried to figure out some of the ethical issues raised by AI in an amazing setting, with the best food I’ve ever eaten. It was, as they say, transformative.
I was there with old friends like Dan Hon and Matt Webb, and met a whole group of fascinating people whose thoughts and insights have stayed with me.
Looking back, it’s clear that the three days in Juvet shifted my life. I was about to join BBC Research & Development having spent seven years working to build a model of a digital public space in the archive development team and as part of the Make it Digital initiative. As a result of the conversations at Juvet I carved out a big chunk of my time to shape the BBC’s approach to AI and ML, and have been running our internal Machine Learning Ethical Design Working Group since.
I want to acknowledge that time, that place, and those people, in these complicated and dangerous days. I don’t know when such times will happen again, or how we will decide to live our lives after SARS-COV-2 and wildfires and extremism have burned through the our world. I re-read the Dark Mountain writings https://dark-mountain.net/, I contemplate Dan Hill’s Slowdown papers https://medium.com/@cityofsound, I try to reconcile my concerns about AI/ML with an understanding that the entire edifice that supports these advanced technologies is fragile beyond our comprehension.
And I live in these two worlds simultaneously, caught between the grim meathook future and a techno-optimist world in which we shape the network for public good.
Hey ho. We persist.