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4 posts from July 2019

31 July 2019

In AI we trust: Making the case for responsible artificial intelligence

by Euan Cameron UK Artificial Intelligence Leader

It starts – and ends – with trust. To be successfully adopted, new technology must have the confidence of those it affects.

Artificial intelligence is no different. To engender trust in AI, organisations need to take a responsible approach. That means tackling bias, overcoming unfairness, resolving ethical dilemmas, and making it explainable.

One of the highest profile areas that will provide the first real test of ethics, fairness and trust in AI, will be autonomous vehicles.

AI will correlate and analyse vast quantities of real-time data from the vehicle and its surroundings to navigate smoothly and make critical decisions quickly. But how can people be reassured AI will make the right decisions? And what is the right decision?

There is an ethical dilemma. For those designing algorithms that will run autonomous vehicles, the 1967 ‘trolley problem’ is the lodestar. How can a system be designed that is capable of weighing ethical decisions in the event of an inevitable crash especially when lives are at stake? Who is in control, or at fault: the data scientist; the car; or the ‘driver’?

Bias is another issue to be overcome with AI. Take the example of employers using AI to automatically analyse and filter CVs, where an employer may be entrenching bias based on the make-up of the existing workforce. This will fail most people’s test of fairness. It is also a complex issue, which is why we say making AI explainable and easily understood is crucial for building trust.

It is not possible to remove bias entirely. But it is possible to be aware of unintended bias and mitigate accordingly. For example, a team of data scientists that better represents the cultural, ethnic and gender make-up of society at large is likely to make more inclusive decisions.

If there are fairness and ethical issues with the use of AI in recruitment there is a huge challenge in giving society confidence that the technology is capable of safely driving cars.

According to the AI Predictions survey, 47% of organisations do test for bias in data, models and human use of algorithms. That’s a solid number but it suggests over half still neglect - or are unaware of - the negative effects of bias.

One way to add substance to ethical decision-making is to align it to company values. Taking a responsible approach to AI is not only the right thing to do for clients, customers and society, it’s the right thing to do for business. Trust is transactional, a quid pro quo between company and customer. It’s easier to gain trust if the customer can see benefit, by improving the customer experience, for example. Transparency underscores trust. So does tackling bias and establishing an ethical code.

That’s why we are helping organisations not only understand and exploit technologies such as AI but also align it with their business objectives and social and ethical responsibilities.

Our research estimates AI could contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by the end of the next decade. Those that earn trust will prosper, but to earn that trust they must address complex ethical and cultural issues, build belief in the effectiveness of the technology and provide society with clarity and confidence over who is in control.

You can explore these issues at ‘Driverless: Who is in control?’, a free exhibition at the Science Museum in London. PwC is sponsoring the exhibition as part of our focus on promoting the responsible, ethical use of AI in business and society.

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by Euan Cameron UK Artificial Intelligence Leader

16 July 2019

NHS Wales Data Science Hackathon 2019

by Will Bridges Data and Analytics Manager

In May 2019, the PwC Wales & West Data and Analytics team participated in the NHS Wales Data Science Hackathon in Cardiff.

The first of its’ kind hackathon was set up by the NHS Wales Modelling Collaborative in partnership with the ONS data science campus. The event brought together programmers, experienced data scientists, analysts, and healthcare professionals from across the NHS Wales community.

Participants were tasked with developing new ideas to drive innovation across the NHS and focus on the questions raised as priority areas by clinicians, managers and decision makers. A synthesised dataset was shared with participants ahead of the event.

The PwC data and analytics group were split across two teams, working with NHS problem owners, analysts and data scientists to help provide valuable context and expertise.

The first team was tasked with delivering a solution to the question: “Why do bed days differ between hospitals and what are the potential areas for improvement?” The team produced an interactive dashboard using Microsoft’s Power BI tool to identify hospitals, GP practices and patient characteristics that contribute towards longer patient bed stays.

The second team were tasked with answering: “How can we improve the accessibility of community pharmacies throughout Wales, ensuring everyone has access at the right time and place?” They developed an optimisation model using Python which honed the location of pharmacies based on population distributions throughout Wales, incorporating data such as distance and drive time. Results were visualised in an interactive Power BI dashboard which allowed users to identify locations where potential improvements to accessibility could be made.

Our team who led the development of the pharmacy optimisation model were crowned winners on the day, with some great feedback from the judges and hackathon participants.

Each team involved on the day showcased some great analysis, demonstrating the vast potential data science can bring to drive efficiencies and better outcomes throughout healthcare and Wales, helping to solve the world's important problems.

“It was nice to listen in on some of the group discussions, in particular the interplay between the problem owners and the analysts. Everyone hopefully came away with a better understanding of the importance of the work in the context of delivering patient care, whilst also learning a bit about the “art of the possible” in relation to advanced analytics.” Gareth John, Information Manager, NHS Wales Informatics Service

Here are some pictures from the day:

NHS Hackathon 2019-1 NHS Hackathon 2019-3
NHS Hackathon 2019-3

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

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by Will Bridges Data and Analytics Manager

05 July 2019

As the driverless revolution gathers momentum, will the Local Hero prevail?

by Neha Puri Senior Manager, Disruption & Innovation

The Science Museum’s new exhibition ‘Driverless: Who is in control?” feels timely as we progress towards an autonomous future. If you had the power, would you save an elderly person over a toddler, an executive over a homeless person, perhaps an athlete over someone who wasn’t?

We have previously written about how it isn’t technology itself that creates change; rather change comes from the way we organise our lives, communities and economies in order to use technology. The future will be shaped by the interplay between the two pathways of innovation and centralisation. Our four scenarios below help illustrate how we may interact with autonomous vehicles.

In a highly innovative, highly centralised world, the machines reign supreme. Vehicle ownership could be restricted to tech-platforms only. They would also control the decision-making algorithms that make life and death choices in the rare cases of a collision. In a fully-connected world of wearables, a utilitarian algorithm could use data on productive life-spans left, insurance costs etc to calculate and execute the ‘optimal’ outcome. In contrast, a highly decentralized world where the pace of innovation is de-accelerating, we may see a mix of autonomous and conventional vehicles competing on the roads - survival of the fittest. The navigation systems might vary depending on the manufacturer (Chinese, or American), with no single algorithm having the power to determine outcomes. The complexity of such an ecosystem may mean that collisions remain stubbornly high.

Diagram 1: Autonomous Vehicles in the City of the Future: Who will be in control?


An increasingly non-innovative future could also be more centralised. Under a global rationing scenario, vehicle ownership could be limited to a privileged elite. Acting in self-interest, these would be incentivised to programme their navigation systems to protect the occupants of the car in all circumstances. For example, in the case of sudden brake failure, the vehicle would choose the option of least impact, even if it meant harming innocent bystanders or pedestrians.

If the scenarios above seem dystopic, then the local hero provides a more optimistic vision of the future. In a highly innovative, highly decentralised world, empowered citizens may choose to replace private vehicles with autonomous public transport to address urban congestion and emissions. Community-owned navigation systems would be programmed in accordance with wider social values. MIT’s moral machine - on display at the Science Museum - has identified some universal preferences (e.g., save more lives than fewer) amidst various cultural and economic differences.

If the Local Hero did prevail, who would you choose to save? Leave your comments below.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology on your industry, then please get in touch with Euan Cameron.

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by Neha Puri Senior Manager, Disruption & Innovation

03 July 2019

Inspiring Performance: Data insights and the evolution of British Athletics

by Alex Cooke Data Intelligence Partner

Over the years, the world of sport has been defined by extraordinary human achievements; the combination of natural talent, hard work and the ability of people to push themselves, and others faster, further and to new levels of technical precision. Successful coaches have been praised for using their years of experience, intuition and insights to tune preparation and performance; the ability to see with the human eye what others could not.

All of that still holds true today, but in the background, the application of science and technology is increasingly playing a role in shaping the pursuit of sporting achievement. Sport is now awash with data and there are some celebrated uses of data in sport. It’s hard to believe the real life story behind Hollywood film ‘Moneyball’ is over 10 years old. However, we are still only at the cusp of what can be achieved by tapping into that data. This is why I am both proud and excited that PwC is working together with British Athletics as its Official Data Intelligence Partner. This also marks a major milestone for PwC as we continue to invest in our data analytics capabilities to ensure our clients, across all industries, are able to gain powerful insights

For me personally, it is that rare moment when two worlds collide, as a somewhat average endurance runner who has spent nearly 20 years helping businesses collect, manage and use data to improve performance. Now the opportunity presents to bring these passions together and it is a privilege to work alongside the top sports scientists and coaches in the country at the British Athletics National Performance Institute at Loughborough University.

With this team we are bringing together the data they have into one cohesive whole and providing reporting and advanced analytics to deliver actionable insights. The data sources are wide ranging; from strength and conditioning, biomechanics, health and physiology to training loads and competitor analysis.

The goal is simple - ‘win more medals in more events’. Our role in helping to achieve it, is to develop a complete view of each athlete based on their data, enabling the sports scientists and coaches to work with the athletes to determine what contributes towards them achieving peak performance, when it matters most. This partnership will evolve as we gather more data, but we have been delivering insights from week one.

“This is a huge evolution within the sport of athletics. The question we ask ourselves is what have you done today that will contribute to winning more medals. This partnership allows us to answer that question quickly and easily”.

Neil Black, Performance Director at British Athletics

All the data analytics in the world is no substitute for talent, hard work and experience, but in a sport where millimetres and split seconds can be the difference between silver and gold, putting better information into the hands of world class athletes and coaches can provide crucial insights; insights that will inform smarter decisions and improve training, recovery and performance. Some of the gains may be marginal, but our experienced data intelligence team know the smallest details, those that may elude the human eye, can often make the biggest difference.

This isn’t about replacing human insight or intuition. It isn’t about reducing the need for talent, hard work and experience. It is about supplementing those inherently human attributes with enhanced digital capabilities.

“We’re one of the best nations in the world in our sport, with the best people, and now we’re going to get the information to match all that.”

Paula Dunn, Paralympics Head Coach of British Athletics

British Athletics has provided us with incredible moments of drama, excitement and entertainment as well as some inspirational role models. At PwC we are looking forward to helping British Athletics reach new levels of achievement and inspiring performances that bring more moments of magic and more medals in more events.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

by Alex Cooke Data Intelligence Partner

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