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AI, electricity and the age of empowerment
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AI, electricity and the age of empowerment

Posted by Zenobia HegdeFebruary 5, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world, but is it for the better? Here, Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium, argues that Europe’s power sector has a crucial role to play in leading the responsible application of AI.

It will come as no surprise to hear that AI is used in some of the most exciting technologies around today. After all, the idea of a world populated by machines that cater to our every need has long been utopian. And now these visions look increasingly achievable.

Progress has primarily been made in the field of machine learning, spurred on by innovative tech giants and start-ups alike, particularly in the US and China. As the Internet of Things continues to take hold, with internet-enabled devices collecting ever-more data, there will be more and more for our machines to learn – and gain in intelligence.

Clearly this process needs careful guidance – and that’s where Europe comes in.

Europe’s critical role

The biggest danger with AI is our understanding of what this all really means. It’s important that we dedicate great minds to the task of ensuring that AI technologies lead to a better future – giving Europe’s own AI visionaries a critical role.

Europe’s culture of innovation is a little slower than that of the US and China. This is not due to a lack of talent or infrastructure, but because of an emphasis on perfecting a product before release. It’s a different mindset but no less valuable, especially when the consequences of product development can be dramatic – either way.

We need European AI experts to consider not just what’s possible, but what’s actually responsible. As all Black Mirror fans know, not all ideas should be unleashed on humanity.

However, Europe is home to companies and institutions like DeepMind and Oxford University, which are doing fantastic research into the implications of AI – raising questions that must be answered if AI is to bring about positive change.

We need these European experts to consider not just what’s possible, but what’s responsible when it comes to AI. And it could all start with electricity.

The new information grid

The shift we can expect to see in our energy landscape will be unprecedented, and utility providers face multiple disruptions. Not only must they adapt to smaller-scale, distributed electricity generation, but they also now face fierce competition from the tech giants.

It’s apparent that utilities must adapt. To remain relevant, power providers will become platforms, offering services to improve our lives, and will help regulate supply.

The application of AI will be critical to the delivery of such services, as will a change of mindset. Utilities are moving into the people business. They must think beyond chasing efficiency gains alone and really start applying emotional intelligence to every decision. An optimally efficient grid is no good if it doesn’t fit around how people want to live.

Tamara McCleary

In fact, it’s perfectly plausible that the power and information grids will merge into one. It’s similarly plausible that the first utopian AI applications could arise from the European power sector.

An age of empowerment

This places a huge responsibility on the power sector. Its attitude towards AI and behaviour in its application over the next few years may shape not only the sector’s commercial prospects, but also global approaches to AI and the future of the world we live in.

Thankfully, power professionals are already coming together at events like Electrify Europe to share ideas and develop responsible solutions that will work to improve our lives.

The author of this blog is Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium

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Zenobia Hegde

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