The future is now

5th June 2017

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Wadham AI experts shared insights about the Fourth Industrial Revolution with San Francisco alumni at an illuminating and thought-provoking panel discussion.

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Chairing the panel was Kathleen Sullivan (PPE, 1976), Partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Honorary Fellow of Wadham College. The speakers were Artificial Intelligence specialist Stuart Russell  (Physics, 1979), Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley; Murat Sönmez, Director of the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco; and Warren East CBE (Engineering, 1980), CEO of Rolls Royce and Chair of Wadham’s Development Council. Director of Development at Wadham College Julie Hage hosted the evening.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from Toshiba America and Daisho Group, the College was able to welcome more than 120 guests at The Battery club’s elegant penthouse venue in downtown San Francisco for a lively debate about the implications of the of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' and the role of corporations, governments, universities and individuals in building viable economies and communities of the future.

  • Stephen Reade (Wadham, 1985) welcomes panellists.

  • Kathleen Sullivan (PPE, 1976), Partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Honorary Fellow of Wadham College

  • Murat Sönmez, Director of the World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco

  • Stuart Russell  (Physics, 1979), Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley; and chair, Kathleen Sullivan (PPE, 1976)

  • Warren East CBE (Engineering, 1980), CEO of Rolls Royce and Chair of Wadham’s Development Council

Drawing on their expertise from higher education, industry and governmental policy work, the panelists discussed whether the Fourth Industrial Revolution would create or destroy employment opportunities. “Both”, replied Stuart Russell who emphasised that fundamental changes to the way we organise our lives and societies could happen much sooner than we think, and that once millions of jobs have been eliminated thanks to automation, we would have to redefine what a meaningful life is.

Discussing what governments should be doing to address this, Murat Sönmez stressed that he was encouraged by the commitment of governments around the world to developing policies to ensure the livelihood of our future communities. Warren East highlighted the ability of corporations to develop enhanced steering mechanisms, improving lives by introducing regulations and control frameworks. Discussing whether AI represents a threat to human existence, Stuart Russell explained that one significant area of research focuses on the need to create an “inbuilt mechanism of doubt” in intelligent machines, as this mechanism would allow the systems to hesitate and redirect actions if the objective was wrong.

Bringing together Wadham and Oxford alumni from professions across Silicon Valley, representing a wealth of experience, the panelists were visibly energised by the interaction with the audience.

Wadham has a community of more than 200 alumni in California and will be organising further events in the coming months, as well as supporting the Oxford North American Alumni Reunion scheduled to take place in San Francisco in April 2018. Connect to Wadham College Alumni on LinkedIn for information about events and networking opportunities in California and elsewhere in North America or get in touch with julie.hage@wadham.ox.ac.uk

You can also find out more about Oxford events in California via the Northern California Branch of the Oxford University Society (OUS NorCal) - the official alumni association of the University of Oxford in the Bay Area - on www.ousnorcal.org or contact secretary@ousnorcal.org

View all images from this event here

  • Event host, Wadham's Director of Development Julie Hage