Artificial Intelligence, Thinking Machines and the Future of Humanity (Gerd Leonhard)

Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.

Since I have come back to the UK I have started studying Stanford University’s Machine Learning course on Coursera, presented by Andrew Ng. I’m currently three weeks in to the eleven week course. It is well presented, with some good materials and the coursework is challenging me intellectually.

Apart from the above, there are a number of other reasons for me doing this:Continue reading

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On Saturday I went to Cardiff with Dan Slee for Gov Camp Cymru, an unconference for government types in Wales.

On Friday night I looked up the different options for getting to New Street train station in Birmingham city centre. City Mapper gave me the expected times and calories burned for walking, cycling and driving. It also showed me a range of options for taking the bus.

Opendata

I had a few things to do on the way back in the evening and so I decided to take the car. I took a look on Parkopedia for the best car parks and on street parking close to the city centre. I ended up parking on the street in Digbeth and walking to New Street.

I met Dan at the station. He had checked the price of tickets using one of the many Split Ticketing sites that offer to find you cheaper fares than those that are on standard sites such as National Rail or The Trainline.Continue reading

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Last week I attended the AbreLatam and ConDatos events in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was the fifth edition of this regional conference on open data for Latin America and was held over three days at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in central San Jose. What follows is a round up of the the days along with some of my impressions.

Day One – Abre Latam Unconference

The first day was an unconference event, with the agenda being decided by the participants at the start of the day. There was a sizeable proportion of attendees who were at their first unconference. The format went down well, with a number of people saying how much they enjoyed the more collaborative style both during the day and at the end of the event.

One difference to other unconferences I’ve attended was that, instead of asking people to come up and pitch their ideas for sessions at the front, we were all given three Post-It notes. We wrote down three topics, ideas or thoughts and stuck them on the giant blank agenda.

Collaborative Agenda at AbreLatam 2017

Collaborative Agenda at AbreLatam 2017

One of the topics of conversation that came up both on this day and subsequent ones was the need to pursue and prosecute laws where they already exist. For instance, in the first session I attended on privacy, a number of attendees said that their country had strong privacy laws but that they were often ignored with impunity by the authorities.

There was also a conference on human rights in San Jose last week and a lawyer attending that told me something similar, that in many cases in Latin America it is not that the law does not confer human rights, but that people’s access to exercising those rights are unequal.
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This Saturday is Open Data Day.

A photograph of Chris Morris on the set of the Day today

The Day Today BBC ? 2014

Data describe the places where we live, work and play and it helps us to understand the world around us. You could be interested in local transport, health or education, our public services create data about all of them. Data can help you hold politicians to account, or it can tell you where the nearest public loo is.

In Birmingham we are holding an event at Birmingham City University where we are going to set up a West Midlands “Open DataStore In A Day”. The idea is quite simple. Over the day we will set up a website that can hold open datasets and publish what we can find to it.?You don’t have to be a technical whizz to take part. Enthusiasm and curiosity are enough to make it worth your while coming along.

We’ll spend the day finding and collecting the data that people are interested in and we’ll put it all together in one place online, in the West Midlands Open Datastore. Once we’ve done that, it makes it all a lot easier to do something useful with.

If somebody can’t find the data that they are interested in then we will help them to write a Freedom Of Information request to ask for it. When those are answered we will add them to the Open Datastore.

I’m really pleased that Data Unlocked, the co-operative venture that I’ve recently helped to co-found, are providing the website for people to work on during the day, and that we will continue supporting it afterwards. We’ve helped to organise the day along with Open Mercia and RnROrganisation.

In?Emer Coleman’s recent post about the City as a Platform?she says that she has seen quotes of up to ?200,000 for Data Platforms. We think that we can do a lot with some free open source software and the goodwill of people volunteering their time and skills.

We are using?Ckan?to host the West Midlands Open Datastore and are thankful to the Open Knowledge Foundation for providing this free, open source software for us to use.?Thanks also to Birmingham City University, who are providing us with a room in their sparky new offices at Parkside.

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This Wednesday Nesta are hosting the Pitch and Celebration Event for the Open Data Institute’s first challenge series, which focused on Crime and Justice. I’ll be going down to see which of the three finalists have won the grand prize of ?40,000 and to hear a little more about the next two challenge areas: Education and Energy & The Environment.

Open Data Institute - Challenge Series - Crime and Justice

Open Data Institute – Challenge Series – Crime and Justice

I had a really enjoyable time working as Series Lead on the Crime and Justice series and am really thankful for the opportunity to work with both Nesta and the Open Data Institute. I think we did a good job of attracting a range of entries and the shortlisting, although difficult, resulted in the strongest projects going forward to the final.Continue reading

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Bookings are open for people to attend the Crime and Justice Series hack weekend, known as the Creation and Innovation Weekend, which is being held at Nesta in London over the 12th-13th October. This is the competition weekend for the Crime and Justice Series part of the Open Data Challenge Series.

We’ve created a number of different tickets. People who want to participate can sign up for Individual Team Member tickets. This is for people who want to tackle one of the challenges set for the Crime and Justice Series, which are:

How can open data projects be constructed that achieve one of the following:

– increase community involvement with the criminal justice system?

– create further evidence for what are effective interventions for rehabilitation?

– address the rise in personal crime?Continue reading

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Changes are being made to how people convicted of criminal offences are given help towards their rehabilitation. Some of these changes are going to mean that data, and in particular open government data, have an important role to play. In this post I’m going to outline three of these opportunities, all of which could be addressed by projects that participate in the Open Data Challenge Series?challenge:

How can an open data project create further evidence for what are effective interventions for rehabilitation?

The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation agenda proposes to extend rehabilitation services to a wider number of people. For example, from next year everybody?sentenced to fewer than 12 months in custody will receive supervision and rehabilitation. It also seeks to open up a market in the provision of rehabilitation services.

The voluntary, community, social enterprise and private sectors provide services already but the intention is that they will provide more of them and also that they will be able to decide how they provide these, based on their ability to prove their success.

This means there will be an element of payment by results in the new system and I believe there are opportunities for open data projects here.Continue reading

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Last week I wrote about the Open Data Institute’s first Immersion Programme on Crime and Justice. I’m series lead for this and part of the role means that I’ll be both encouraging people to take part and supporting those that do.

Balance justice

As a recap, the challenges that we have set are:

How can open data projects be constructed that achieve one of the following:

  • increase community involvement with the criminal justice system?
  • create further evidence for what are effective interventions for rehabilitation?
  • address the rise in personal crime?

An obvious question to ask is why would somebody want to take part in the series?
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I’ve recently taken on a really interesting role working with the Open Data Institute. Over the next nine months I’ll be the series lead for their first Immersion Programme where we will be working with developers, data owners within and outside government and other interested parties to help establish some substantial and sustainable open data projects. This first programme has the theme of Crime and Justice.

Last Wednesday, 20th March, we kicked off with a day long session at the Open Data Institute where we discussed what three challenges should be set for participants in the programme. The day was arranged and co-hosted by Olivia Burnam from the ODI, who will continue supporting the programme when she returns to the Cabinet Office next month.

Open Data Institute logo

Open Data Institute logo

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This was the talk I did at Pecha Kucha Coventry in November last year. It might sound a slightly odd title for a talk that is all about open data, but I was keen to do the whole presentation without using the phrase “open data” once. This was because I was part of an evening that had a variety of different speakers, not all of whom were technical, so I really couldn’t assume any prior knowledge of what open data is from the audience.

I also think that using the phrase is often a way of excluding people from the discussion. This was a useful opportunity to prove to myself that it’s possible to talk about open data in a way that is easy to understand for people who don’t want to know anything about the technical details.

I think that’s pretty much most people.

So, here it is. It is essentially me talking about three projects I’ve been involved with: the Birmingham Civic Dashboard, AidView and some ongoing work I’m doing with Mike Cummins about secondary school admissions.

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