Evolve into the REAL you

In a reflective mood this evening.. sharing some #foodforthought 🤔

We all need to adapt to an ever changing world especially one ravaged and disrupted by #covid19pandemic.

At the same time, one should be mindful of allowing ‘life’ to determine (or even hijack) one’s aspirations and fate. Worse still, one should be careful about pursuing power and wealth at the expense of all else or becoming a ‘parasite’ living off (and exploiting) others.

Take a moment to view the video I’ve included in this posting (click on the YouTube icon below) .. something I recommend everyone watches and reflects on.

PS The Godfather remains my all time #number1 movie and Al Pacino is my hero 🤩❤️🎉

Consider striving daily to become the best you can be while remaining congruent and true to yourself.

Don’t let life pass you by .. grab every opportunity that presents itself .. remember, every challenge is an opportunity to grow and evolve into something stronger and more remarkable.

Don’t live life with #fearofmissingout .. rather invest in yourself and #beextraordinary .. for YOU not others who are mere spectators .. blind to and ignorant of YOU-R GREATness.

In a reflective mood this evening.. sharing some #foodforthought 🤔

We all need to adapt to an ever changing world especially one ravaged and disrupted by #covid19pandemic.

At the same time, one should be mindful of allowing ‘life’ to determine (or even hijack) one’s aspirations and fate. Worse still, one should be careful about pursuing power and wealth at the expense of all else or becoming a ‘parasite’ living off (and exploiting) others.

Take a moment to view the video I’ve included in this posting .. something I recommend everyone watches and reflects on.

PS The Godfather remains my all time #number1 movie and Al Pacino is my hero 🤩❤️🎉

Consider striving daily to become the best you can be while remaining congruent and true to yourself.

Don’t let life pass you by .. grab every opportunity that presents itself .. remember, every challenge is an opportunity to grow and evolve into something stronger and more remarkable.

Don’t live life with #fearofmissingout .. rather invest in yourself and #beextraordinary .. for YOU not others who are mere spectators .. blind to and ignorant of YOU-R GREATness.

Audio Podcast is now LIVE!

It’s been a busy weekend culminating in a cautious step into the world of Podcasting. I’ve been procrastinating for a while (!)

and realised I had several bucket loads of content which I could be publishing to the world.

And .. so after a bit of inspiration and lots of coffee, I am pleased to announce my new podcast about “Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Tech”.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on uploading additional episodes.

In the meantime, if you would be so kind, take a look at what I have already.

Episode TitleDuration (mm:ss)Date Posted
AI for Social Good10:4920 March 2021
Are AI and Cognitive Computing the SAME thing?10:42 20 March 2021
Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Technologies09:30 20 March 2021
Towards an “AI enabled”​ Society09:4221 March 2021

The podcast is available on the following platforms which may be downloaded to mobile, tablet and computer.

Hope you enjoy what I’ve created so far. Thanks for taking the time to read this posting and for listening to my podcasts.

Are AI and Cognitive Computing the SAME thing?


The terms Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cognitive Computing (CC) are often used interchangeably but there the approaches and objectives of each differ.

AI and Cognitive Computing are “based on the ability of machines to sense, reason, act and adapt based on learned experience” (Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel)

The two topics are closely aligned; while they are not mutually exclusive, both have distinctive purposes and applications due to their practical, industrial, and commercial appeal as well as their respective challenges amongst academia, engineering, and research communities.

This topic is explored further in my book, “Understanding the Role of AI and its Future Social Impact”. Checkout one of my other LinkedIn Articles for further information.

For reference, my new book is available via :-

  1. https://lnkd.in/gbk-zba (Amazon)
  2. https://bit.ly/34cfJVf (IGI Global)


Before we get into too much detail, let’s start by defining each of these terms. We will then explore what they have in common, their differences and typical uses.

Artificial Intelligence (an “umbrella term”)

AI has been studied for decades and, despite threatening to disrupt everything human, remains one of the least understood subjects in computer science. We use it every day without even noticing it. Google Maps applies it to provide directions. Gmail applies it to locate spam. Spotify, Netflix and others apply intelligent customer service via automatic response systems.

As the popularity of AI grows, there remains a misunderstanding of the technical jargon that comes with it.

In simple terms, AI is an umbrella term that includes a diverse array of sub-topics which may be best described by the following mind map (Mills, 2016).

In the words the person who coined the term artificial intelligence, John McCarthy, AI is “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”.

In layman’s terms, AI is an understanding that is achieved by machines that interpret, mine and learn from external data in ways that the machine functionally imitates the cognitive processes of a human. These processes include learning from constantly changing data, reasoning to make sense of the data and related self-correction mechanisms. Human intelligence is rooted in sensing the environment, learning from it and processing its information.

Thus, AI includes

  • A simulation of human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch
  • A simulation of learning and processing: deep learning, ML, etc.
  • Simulations of human responses: robotics AI applications includes problem-solving, game playing, natural language processing (NLP), speech recognition, image processing, automatic programming and robotics.

Cognitive Computing

Cognitive Computing (CC) refers to the development of computer systems based on mimicking human brains. It is a science that was developed to train computers to think by analysing, interpreting, reasoning and learning without constant human involvement. CC represents the third era of computing.

In the first era (19th century) Charles Babbage, the ‘father of the computer’, introduced the concept of a programmable machine. Used for navigational calculation, his computer tabulated polynomial functions. The second era (1950s) resulted in digital programming computers like ENIAC (see End Notes) and ushered an era of modern computing and programmable systems.

CC utilises deep-learning algorithms and big-data analytics to provide insights.

A cognitive system

  1. Understands natural language and human interactions
  2. Generates and evaluates evidence based hypothesis
  3. Adapts and learns from user selections and responses

The “brain” of a cognitive system is a neural network: fundamental concept behind deep learning. A neural network is a system of hardware and software that mimics the central nervous system of humans to estimate functions that depend on a huge amount of unknown or learned inputs. By the 1980s, two trends affected the way experts and researchers began to unpack ‘the black box’ of the neural approaches to studying, thinking and learning. This was the advent of computing and cognitive sciences.

Thus, CC refers to

  • Understanding and simulating reasoning
  • Understanding and simulating human behaviour

Using CC systems, we can make better human decisions at work. Applications include speech recognition, sentiment analysis, face detection, risk assessment and fraud detection.

The Differences


  • AI augments human thinking to solve complex problems. It focuses on accurately reflecting reality and providing accurate results.
  • CC tries to replicate how humans solve problems, whereas AI seeks to create new ways to solve problems potentially better than humans.


  • CC focuses on mimicking human behaviour and reasoning to solve complex problems.
  • AI is not intended to mimic human thoughts and processes but are instead to solve problems using the best possible algorithms.


  • CC is not responsible for making the decisions of humans. They simply provide intelligent information for humans to use to make better decisions.
  • AI is responsible for making decisions on their own while minimising the role of humans.

The Similarities


  • The technologies behind CC are similar to those behind AI, including ML, deep learning, NLP, neural networks etc.
  • In the real world, applications for CC are often different than those for AI.

Industrial Use

  • AI is important for service-oriented industries, such as healthcare, manufacturing and customer service.
  • CC is important in analysis intensive industries, such as finance, marketing, government and healthcare.

Human decision-making

  • People do not fear CC, because it simply supplements human decision-making.
  • People fear that AI systems will displace human decision-making when used in conjunction with CC.
  • The middle-man is now humans, who still make the decisions. Do we need to cut out the middle-man and replace him/her with AI to facilitate optimal decision making?


Calling CC a form AI is not wrong, but it misses a fundamental distinction that is important to understand.

When we talk about AI, we are most often talking about an incredibly sophisticated algorithm that includes some form of complex decision tree. This is how autonomous vehicles work: they take a starting point and a destination as input and navigate between the two points through a mind-bogglingly long sequence of ‘if-then-else’ statements.

AI enables computers to do intelligent things. The possible applications for AI are quite extensive and already are fully embedded into our daily routines. For example, AI and fully autonomous vehicles are an inseparable part of the future. ‘AI’ watches countless hours of driving footage for training and is assigned variables that enable them to identify lanes, other cars and pedestrians and then to provide decision results nearly instantly.

CC, while a handy marketing term, helps solve problems by augmenting human intelligence and decision making, not by replacing it. Several AI fundamentals are included, such as ML, neural networks, NLPs, contextual awareness and sentiment analysis, to augment problem-solving that humans constantly need. This is why IBM defines CCs as ‘systems that learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally’.

The main driver and common thread across the topics of AI and CC is ‘data’. Without these technologies, there is not much we can do with data. Hence a renewed push in areas of advanced analytics, giving rise to solutions that improve predictability in areas where silos exist, decision making via visualised dashboards that draw upon real-time and historical data made possible via the improved handling of unstructured data.

Additionally, deep learning, a form of ML, accelerates progress in these areas. AI, ML and NLP, with technologies such as NoSQL, Hadoop, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Spark, Kubernetes, etc., form part of a larger cognitive system. Solutions should be capable of handling dynamic real-time and static historical data. Enterprises looking to adopt cognitive solutions should start with specific business segments that have strong business rules to guide the algorithms and large volumes of data to train the machines.

Instead of debating the utility and applicability of CC and AI and forcing competition between the respective experts and research communities, our view is that we should expend our collective energy on creating a future in which the benefits of both AI and CC are combined within a single system, operating from the same sets of data and the same real-time variables to enrich humans, society and our world.

Concluding Thoughts

To summarise, AI empowers computer systems to be smart (and perhaps smarter than humans). Conversely, CC includes individual technologies that perform specific tasks that facilitate and augment human intelligence. When the benefits of both AI and CC are combined within a single system, operating from the same sets of data and the same real-time variables, they have the potential to enrich humans, society, and our world.

In 2019, the second meeting of the International Conference on Cognitive Computing (ICCC) was held. Its aim was to combine technical aspects of CC with service computing and sensory intelligence, building on the study of traditional human senses of sight, smell, hearing and taste to develop enhanced scientific and business platforms and applications. These encompass ML, reasoning, NLP, speech and vision, human-computer interaction, dialogue and narrative generation.

Working with and supporting organisations like ICCC, future researchers should continue to explore how best to leverage the combination of CC and AI with other emerging technologies, such as blockchain, bioinformatics, internet of things, big data, cloud computing and 5G digital cellular networks and wireless communications.

Although countries such as China may be ‘leading the race’ in many areas related to AI, the question of combining emerging technologies with CC and AI is one that, if done ethically with social good as the focus, could lead to many societal benefits that empower individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and governments throughout the world while driving competition, research and development.

It is undeniable that Covid-19 has transformed the lives of humans everywhere. We have been forced to quickly adapt to these ‘new norms’ due to the pandemic.

On a positive note, we have all learnt valuable life lessons and become more resilient.

Let’s work together to create a digitally-driven civil society underpinned by socially minded technology.

End Notes

  1. ENIAC was the first electronic general-purpose computer. It was “Turing complete”, digital and able to solve “a large class of numerical problems” through reprogramming.


Mills, M. (2016). Artificial Intelligence in Law: The State of Play 2016 (Part 1). Artificial Intelligence in Law: The State of Play 2016 (neotalogic.com)

AI & Immersive Technologies

Augmented, Virtual, Mixed and Extended Realities


Virtual Reality (VR) was first imagined in science fiction, and emerged in real life via an immersive film-viewing cabinet created in the 1950s. It wasn’t until 2010 that the Oculus Rift VR headset was first shown and by 2014 the company was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion – valued largely for its consumer gaming applications. Since then other major manufacturers have developed VR technology, including Sony and HTC and several hundred companies have been launched to develop content, applications and provide systems and services.

If you’re among the millions of those who’ve used their smartphones to chase Pokémon in the real world, then you already know how amazing augmented reality (AR) can be, although you may not be aware that it has moved beyond gaming and entertainment to wider applications such as advertising, retail, training – and more.

This technology continues to grow rapidly, and it could soon become bigger than VR. The reason for this is simple. Unlike VR, which requires expensive equipment, AR can be deployed on smartphones or tablets, which makes it more accessible and far cheaper. Plus, AR is more realistic. While VR puts the user into a completely different, immersive environment, AR uses our existing environment and enriches it with virtual objects.

Ultimately, immersive technologies are on the rise with new forms emerging as part of online and mobile games, cinematic experiences, exhibitions and events, and news media, which all aim to engage audiences and place them at the centre of the action or experience.


There is a whole spectrum of immersive technologies out there. Before we progress further, let’s pause and ensure we’re all on the same page regarding what these terms actually mean.

  • Virtual reality (VR) immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment.
  • Augmented reality (AR) overlays virtual objects on the real-world environment.
  • Mixed reality (MR) not just overlays but anchors virtual objects to the real world i.e. blend the physical and digital worlds. This is sometimes referred to as XR which stands for Cross Reality or Extended Reality which HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman describes as – “the world of atoms and the world of bits”.

These immersive technologies are not about one application; rather they represent the evolution of personal and mobile computing disrupting and revolutionising the way humans interact with machines and one another.

Perhaps the most exciting potential for immersive technology is the impact on learning and experiential learning.

Few would argue that it’s much easier to learn something by “doing it yourself” (DIY) rather than by watching, reading, or being told what to do. Imagine a future where you can immerse yourself in various scenarios so that the experiences and actions within it feel naturally like your own – within a hybrid physical and digital world.

Immersive Technology Improves Efficiency

The UK Government is so convinced immersive technologies (AR, VR, MR) are the future that they have set aside significant investment as part of its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The fund aims to enable business and researchers to work together in creating the technologies which will entertain and educate the audiences of the future.

It is expected that by pushing immersive technologies into the public consciousness, it will spark a wider uptake of the technology and shape the perception and behaviour towards virtual and augmented reality.

report commissioned by Immerse UK concluded that immersive technologies have the potential to help drive the UK economy. In the wake of Brexit, UK companies will look to AR/VR to overcome the productivity gap.

Advantages of VR

Virtual Reality environments have been used in learning simulators for years. They were not exactly originally conceived as games and their usage was more oriented to the adult public. Its evolution and the appearance of new immersive technologies, such as the Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift (vincular a páginas?) and other low cost solutions make VR more accessible to the public in general. It also makes possible the development of a wide variety of applications based on VR and with many different purposes, from leisure to educational, and for all ages.

Advantages of AR

If VR seems to be a powerful development tool for training or teaching, what happens if the information comes to you in a real world environment? The possibilities of AR applications are incredible because the knowledge can be offered in the space where the learning, training or coaching needs occur.

The real environment is augmented with information which can help the user learn or train for specific skills. In this case, AR is supporting the real world rather than replacing it with virtual environments. Its everyday usage is more often in games, tourism, leisure, training and education.

COVID19 and Immersive Technologies

In the pre-pandemic era, companies from across different industries including entertainment, healthcare, gaming, and manufacturing, etc. were already harnessing AR/VR technologies to reach customers and fuel growth. Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Samsung, HTC, etc. have been investing billions of dollars into developing AR/VR products and services for the past few years. 

However, the #covid19pandemic has given a significant impetus to the development and adoption of new and emerging technologies such as robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).

As a result of government enforced lockdown across countries throughout the world, physical channels and in-person meetings have come to a grinding halt forcing all industries, namely, education, businesses, healthcare and entertainment to transition to digital on-line experiences. Many businesses have sadly been destroyed and our high streets and towns have emptied significantly.

AR/VR technologies aren’t just hype. They have proven real-world use cases.

Remote working

As more and more businesses are adapting to the new normal of work, i.e. remote working, the demand for AR and VR solutions is also surging to stay connected and boost productivity.

Facebook announced the availability of Oculus for Business, an enterprise solution for streamlining and expanding virtual reality in the workplace to help organisations meet the early demand for VR-powered training and collaboration to keep up with the tech-driven future of work.

Platforms and devices like Workplace, Portal, and Oculus were built for a time when the economic opportunity might no longer depend on geography, a time when what you do could matter more than where you are. That time starts now“, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Product visualisation

In times of social distancing, online shopping is becoming more and more prevalent; supplemented by home delivery and courier services.

AR/VR technologies are helping businesses interact with their customers and allowing them to virtually see their products in great detail as in reality. The use of visualisation technology in online shopping reduces the time and physical effort of visiting “bricks and mortar” stores and improves customer satisfaction and subsequently consumer-brand interaction.

Education / Online learning

Around the world many educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) have been forced to close temporarily. They have all transitioned to virtual learning to curb the spread of COVID-19 whilst preserving the educational experience for its students – some better than others. While this in itself deserves praise, societal inequalities have surfaced highlighting economic and class differences between schools, families and communities. 


Healthcare is one of the most promising sectors for the growth of AR/VR. These immersive technologies have allowed researchers and health experts to better analyse viruses or diseases like COVID-19.

Combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), AR/VR technologies have aided in the COVID-19 drug discovery efforts by enabling scientists to gain insights into the molecular mechanics of the novel coronavirus in virtual reality.

This has also extended to telehealth services to coronavirus patients which has included remote medical care enabled delivered via VR headsets and VR therapy.

Virtual tourism

Travel and tourism businesses have arguably suffered the most due COVID-19 induced travel restrictions. According to United Nations’ WTO latest research, 83 percent of destinations in Europe have introduced complete closure of borders for international tourism. Amidst this challenge, Virtual Reality has a major role in making a real difference in the sector.

As the COVID 19 pandemic has limited travel and public gatherings, the Tower of David Museum has created a VR project that lets visitors immerse in Jerusalemʼs Old City through a transcendent stereoscopic 360 degrees Virtual Reality Documentary. The wide-ranging initiative, dubbed “The Holy City,” features immersive experiences of the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the priestly blessing (“Birkat Kohanim”) at the Western Wall, and Ramadan prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Each one of us approached the different institutions in Jerusalem and [made clear] that they are not going to be misrepresented by anyone”, explained Nimrod Shanit, executive director of Holy City VR. “It was a really interesting way to work, kind of like an interfaith project”.

While VR may never replace in-person travels, it could offer time and cost-saving substitute to adapt to the COVID-19 induced ‘new normal’ within the travel and tourism industry and also help reduce the industry’s environmental and carbon footprint.

AR/VR post COVID-19

The rapid shift to remote work enabled by the internet and digital channels (such as Zoom and Teams) has also fuelled interest in immersive (and other emerging) technologies which will most likely continue even after the pandemic subsides.

No alt text provided for this image

We know that the road ahead is bumpy for all businesses, regardless of the industry. The bottom line is that attention-grabbing immersive technologies including AR/VR have huge potential to remotely enhance collaboration, educational and workplace productivity but given the economic downturn and the immature state of the technologies, it will take some more time before they go mainstream.

One thing is certain: AR/VR are no longer just about the technology; it’s about defining how we want to live in the real world with these new immersive technologies and how we will design experiences that are meaningful and can enrich humanity.

AI & Immersive Tech

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. When coupled with AR/VR, AI has the capacity to take immersive experiences to another level.

For example: in a learning, training & skills development capacity, AI can replace numerous situations that occur randomly and learn from a students behaviour. As the student gets better, the system will present increasing difficult situations, personalising the education.

Implementation of AI for AR/VR is expected to offer more immersive technology which will be increasingly personalised. Based on previous behaviours within environments, AI has the potential to offer up relevant options to the user or predict required outcomes before they occur.

The trick with VR will be for AI to anticipate what the viewer wants to see and prepare as it streams out to their headset. Gamers are doing this now by starting to incorporate AI alongside canned player action responses. This way when a player does something out of the norm, a new reaction is “dreamed up” by the AI engine.

One of the more common implementations of AI and AR is managing and recognising real-world items in the context of an augmented world.

An example of this is the face filters used on apps like Snapchat. AI is used to determine the face and how it is orientated. The technology is also used to continuously track a person’s face and facial expressions.

Without the help of AI, AR would be unable to detect the proper orientation of a person’s face. Instead, the movement of your device would determine both the vertical and horizontal axis of your filter.

Perhaps one of the most exciting announcements this year is the debut of Microsoft’s Mesh technology a new collaborative mixed reality platform allowing users to experience a combination of AR and VR together; bringing people into your world, and vice versa.

Think of it a bit like the holographic messages we’ve seen in Star Wars and other science fiction stories.

Microsoft Technical Fellow, Alex Kipman, the man behind the HoloLens and Kinect, indicated that Mesh is powered by Azure and “all of its AI and compute capabilities, working seamlessly together whether companies are accessing resources in the cloud or at the edge of the network.

Likewise, Facebook has also been making headlines. The company is heavily investing in an augmented reality (AR) future. Today, Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) has given another teasing look into its vision, which revolves around a contextually-aware, AI-powered interface for its AR glasses.

This could work hand-in-hand with soft, wearable input systems like CTRL-Labs’ wristband – the company Facebook acquired in 2019 – where the AI would offer suggestions that you could say yes or no to. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “I think neural interfaces are going to be fundamentally intertwined with VR and AR work in terms of how the input works as well”.

Facebook also mentions that next week it’ll be unveiling more of its research to do with “wrist-based input combined with usable but limited contextualised AI”, followed later in the year by its work on all-day wearable devices and haptic gloves.

There are already a lot of companies trying to be the pathway to a global interconnected metaverse of VR and AR – powered by AI. Microsoft could be one of the first to make it all work, but how well Microsoft Mesh ends up playing with all of Facebook’s collaborative VR/AR tools, and eventually Google and Apple’s, is the big unknown.

In closing, a natural consequence of AI adoption is the increased automation of routine tasks to eradicate internal inefficiencies, increase operational efficiency and improve profitability.

Imagine for a moment .. the countless possibilities .. perhaps likened to a “sixth sense” beyond our “normal” human senses of :-

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Touch
  4. Smell
  5. Taste

Nonetheless, AI and immersive technologies are all cool technologies that need to find practical uses. When combined, just like the invention of the internet and smartphones, it’s hard to predict where exactly this transformative new tech can take us. 

Concluding Thoughts

Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen.

Additionally, from enabling online learning to opening access to cultural events and experiences, applications of AR and VR can help us overcome the isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Below are four key strategies to expand AR/VR initiatives across cultural institutions, schools and workplaces:

  1. Put a centralised governance model in place and build AR/VR awareness.
  2. Invest in upgrading talent to gear up for future adoption.
  3. Focus on the right use cases that provide lasting value and support employees.
  4. Prepare technology infrastructure to integrate AR/VR.

Seeing, hearing, and touching possible realities through the power of AR/VR can stir our collective willingness to welcome and activate positive change in a world that will be forever changed due to COVID19. Combined with AI, the possibilities appear to be endless.

Let’s make it our collective goal and commitment to design for the best of humanity.

AI for Social Good

No alt text provided for this image
AI for Social Good


We are witnessing a pivotal time in human history, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is integrated into just about every new or established industry. It is the “x factor” or “secret sauce” that is helping to accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Coupled with the global COVID19 pandemic and our collective experience of “lockdown”, everyone young and old is truly experiencing noticeable changes to how we live, work and engage with one another.

With this backdrop, few would debate that AI (and emerging technologies) will transform our lives. The question is: will it be for better or for worse?

AI for Business #aiforbusiness

Much of the narrative around AI is essentially about changing how companies do business.

Companies adopting AI expect to see increased productivity. New efficiencies can be derived from streamlining tasks that previously took humans weeks to complete and improving work processes by pairing people and machines in new ways.

Boards and Private Equity (P.E.) investors will expect CXOs to answer critical questions about how AI will fit into the company’s strategy along with its opportunities and risks. Consequently, leadership and management teams will be expected to answer deeper questions relating to :-

  • How will AI could transform our products or services and which aspects of our business could benefit from increased automation or machine learning?
  • Have we considered the potential efficiency and productivity benefits that may come with adopting AI?
  • How might AI fit with other emerging technologies we are investing in?
  • Do we have the computing power and infrastructure to support the use of AI?
  • Do we have the digital skills and talent to move forward?
  • How will we gain the trust of our stakeholders if we use AI?
  • How can we ensure that biases do not alter AI decisions?
  • Do we have established practices and controls in place to minimise any reputational, regulatory compliance or other risks?
  • Have we thought about how we would use data collected by AI?
  • Have we considered cyber risks and data privacy issues?

To truly capitalise on AI, companies will need to consider a myriad of questions which are multidimensional affecting “people, process and technology” — all of which will be costly. 

AI for Society

In contrast to business and industry, fewer considerations are made publicly about the use AI for society and social good. 

To be clear, this is not about showcasing the latest in AI technologies — from drones, exoskeletons, and robotics to avatars, autonomous cars, and AI-powered health solutions.

All too often, we naively empower marketing agencies, analysts and businesses to propel the belief that AI is a “silver bullet” that will help society solve key issues of the future alongside topics such as democracy, economic inequality, social welfare, and justice.

There are few platforms or institutions that are available to share successes and failures of the intersection of AI and social problems. Where they do exist, they are still in their infancy and currently only offer philosophical notions of social good. Greater focus needs to be applied to connect researchers to civil society organisations, NGOs, local governments, and other organisations to enable applied AI research for beneficial outcomes. Additionally, data created from any learnings and outcomes should be shared across countries, borders and societies perhaps via a pact with leading tech companies that link back to societal organisations that can collectively make social change happen with the right government and civil support.

On the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, one exemplar worth calling out is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs promise action on 17 critical social and environmental issues to address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice — by 2030.

If we were to think of the SDGs as an incredibly powerful employee and citizen engagement opportunity, it would allow all businesses and people across civil society to have a sense of a shared purpose — that connect people to businesses, their communities and the world.

In the midst of a pandemic radically transforming our economies and societies – this provides a more sobering wakeup call that should make us all pause to reflect on the world as it is, as it was, and as it could be. As a human family, and a global collective, we have an opportunity to reimagine and reshape the future.

Equality versus Equity

No alt text provided for this image

It is undeniable that AI will continue to transform every facet of our work, play, and home lives, and benefit organisations in terms of making better decisions and predicting outcomes.

The vast amounts of data sets collected and analysed by AI to predict patterns and outcomes are raising issues around privacy, security, ethics and transparency. The disruptive potential of AI poses looming risks around Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics (F.A.T.E.). However, let’s side step this for a moment and accept that there are plenty of calls to action for greater governance to avoid these negative repercussions.

Let’s remain focussed on “AI for society”: creating AI that supports equality, transparency, and democracy.  After all, these are presumed to be the pillars and foundations required to support #aiforall. However, I believe herein lies a fundamental problem: our language.

What is Equality?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission describe equality as:

“Ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.”

In other words, equality means ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities and receives the same treatment and support.

What is Equity?

Equity is about giving people what they need, in order to make things fair.

Giving more to those who need it.

This is not the same as equality, nor is it the same as inequality. It is simply giving more to those who need it, which is proportionate to their own circumstances, in order to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities.

Equality vs. Equity

The difference between equality and equity must be emphasised. Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently dependent on need. However, this different treatment may be the key to reaching equality.

Since equality and equity are often used interchangeably, let’s ensure we are using the same vocabulary.

Equality → Sameness

I get two apples. You get two apples

Inequality → Unequal

I get two apples. You get no apples.

Equity → Fairness

I get two apples. You get two oranges because you are allergic to apples.

Inequity → Unjust

I get two apples. You get two apples, even though you are allergic.

Equity does not undermine equality, but rather provides the means to achieve this. Equality is undermined when equity is used incorrectly; it is undermined when a person or group’s needs are not taken into account, i.e. giving less to those who need it and more to those who do not. For example, giving women in the engineering workforce less support based on low numbers rather than high need. There are many other examples we can all share.

No alt text provided for this image

In a video posted to Twitter a few days before the 2020 election, now Vice President Kamala Harris wrote: “There’s a big difference between equality and equity.” In the video (with over 6.4 million views), Harris states:

“Equality suggests ‘Oh, everyone should get the same amount.’ The problem with that: Not everybody’s starting out from the same place. So if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far back behind me… Equitable treatment means we all end up at the same place.”

As you can see our choice of words can fundamentally enable a fair society or the complete opposite.

Ultimately, there is a fine line between equity and inequality, which we must ALL be careful not to cross. Otherwise, we will only reinforce structural, cultural and economic biases.

Final Thoughts

AI is rapidly developing and is increasingly being applied across sectors, posing significant ethical and societal challenges. There is therefore a national and global need to adequately equip future leaders and decision-makers to address these challenges across business, public, and social sectors working with AI.

In the context of “AI for Society”, to create true equality of opportunity, equity is needed to ensure that everyone has the same chance of getting there. We must be cautious when dealing with equity; providing too little to those who need it and too much to those who do not can further exacerbate the inequalities we see today.

We need “AI for social good” initiatives to empower employees, customers, individuals and communities across society in order to truly benefit from AI and emerging technology.

No alt text provided for this image

We need to continuously “zoom out” and look at society as a whole rather than focusing on minutiae siloed topics that are heavily entrenched by structural and cultural inequalities.

We need “Storytellers” and “AI experts” alike to help everyone understand how AI and emerging technology might tackle various societal challenges.

We need to think about our fellow humans .. across all borders, countries, and nations.

About the Author

Over the past 25 years, Salim has built a career in consulting, working both client and supplier side as an interim CIO/CTO, a Transformation Consultant and trusted CxO adviser. He has engaged in and led digital and technology transformations and programmes involving rescue & recovery (“turnaround”), process optimisation & improvement and organisational change — globally across the UK, Central Europe, Nordics, Turkey, UAE, US, Asia and Australia.

Salim is an Oxford University alumni and an author in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His main interest is the role of AI for the betterment of society.

My journey of self discovery

Every now and again I watch something that reminds me of the 70s and my childhood.. the struggles with identity, the internalised anger, frustration and heartache caused by external events, politics, racism and indifference of those around me who saw me as an ‘outsider’ .. a vagrant, an immigrant, a ‘visitor’ at best.

Then I watch the latest episode of Small Axe – a British anthology film series, created and directed by Steve McQueen.

The anthology consists of five films which tell distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s.

The series premiered on 15 November 2020 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and on 20 November 2020 on Amazon Prime Video in the United States.

The title references a proverb – “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe” – that was popularised by Bob Marley in his song “Small Axe“.

I was born in Kampala, Uganda, have Indian (rather than Pakistani, which I feel segregates me from my original homeland) heritage and grew up in England initially in a children’s home where life was very challenging.. in ways that Alex Wheatle (Small Axe, Episode 4) might be able to relate. It’s amazing how watching a drama about someone else’s situation and history, can surface both pain, suffering and joy – all at once.

Ironically, I felt I had more in common with ‘white’ people than ‘my own kind’. I say often to some of the people I work with, that I speak (only) English, think in English, am accustomed to English values and traditions, but happen to be a ‘bit tanned’ cause I’m also white really (albeit in my head or as my alter ego).

Growing up, I was the first in my family to get an education, (9 ‘O’ Levels, 3 ‘A’ Levels) and make it to university (I went to THREE!). At university, I never sat still. I engaged in community & voluntary work, took charge of and led student societies and rarely slept. I felt I wanted to be an active part of the many voices, ideologies, protestations and social angst around me .. only to find, it’s all nonsense. I see ‘the same old same old’ today .. sadly, little has changed in the last decade compared to when I was younger. The 80s-90s in my opinion were ground breaking. Many of the younger generation today live in comparative luxury and rarely use their time, voice or youth to better society. In my humble opinion of course!

We spend much of our lives searching for who we are inside .. expressing and representing ourselves externally as one thing and being something entirely different in private. Few build up the courage to (eventually) show who they really are .. many often choose death (natural or suicide) rather than ‘face the music’ — disbelief, feigned surprise, judgemental voices, pointed fingers (and worse). So many famous celebrities have provided examples of what I’m describing. And it never gets easier no matter what generation you’re born into.

Then, once part of the adult world, life lessons truly begin. Navigating amongst an ocean full of all contradictory influences, characters, “ism’s”, philosophies, religions, and institutions, takes its toll before you find your place and (if you’re fortunate, some type of) equilibrium is restored — resulting in either a form of acceptance or denial of who you want to be or who your willing to accept you are supposed to be, living by other people’s standards.

After so many years, and now married with my own children (3 boys), I’m finally (beginning) to feel comfortable with who I am and feel blessed to be part of a multicultural Britain. Ironic, how those who now come to Britain do so without any real appreciation or respect of others who came before them. Guess this is a sign of the times and also an example of changing attitudes, sense of entitlement, and so on.

Now that I am 50 years old, I’m beginning to recognise the sacrifices, ingenuity and vision of the people who came before me .. irrespective of their colour, creed or class. That includes the ‘white’ British people who were decent, open minded and accepting of change.. and in some cases, even helped to promote it. Guess this is a matter of opinion which may be coloured by your own personal experiences.

After too many years of trying to give back and struggling to my place amongst my extended family and professional community, I am finally (!) doing something for ME.

I have written my first book — Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence and Its Future Social Impact — and continue to explore my inner genius. Forever conscious of making the most of who I am and what I have inside of me.

If you’d like to know a bit more about me and what drives me, check out my profile on IGI Global, my book publisher. If you want to learn more .. get in touch.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it inspires and enables you to discover and bring to the surface your inner genius.

God bless. Peace & much love.

I’ve learned that ..
People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, but People will never forget how you made them feel.