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CogX 2019 – Highlights and talking points from the UK’s largest AI conference

20,000 attendees. 687 speakers. 12 stages. 1608 ice creams consumed at the Global Goals ice cream van. These statistics tell a small part of the CogX 2019 story.  

Now in its third year, CogX has gone from strength to strength, year on year. The core purpose of the event is to bring people together from the AI and data communities all over the world and showcase top quality content from global thought leaders across many various sectors. The rising demand and popularity of data and AI is evident from the growth in numbers of attendees at CogX. Each year it kicks off London Tech Week, and this year’s venue was King’s Cross, the knowledge quarter.

Showcasing AI and data development around the world

Members of The Data Lab team first attended in 2018 and created great relationships with people in the international data community whilst there. We were all impressed by the quality of the event, and the overall ethos felt very similar to our own Data Fest. Co-Founder, Tabitha Goldstaub, even decided to come join us in Edinburgh for Data Summit this year, and she hosted one of the best received panels of the event. Knowing what to expect from CogX, we wanted to bring others based in Scotland so they could see where everyone else in the world is at with development around data and AI; a sort of international learning journey despite being on the same island!

In the run up to the event we offered complimentary tickets to those interested in joining us in London. We also worked closely with CogX to get some Scottish based speakers on stage and create awareness about what is happening throughout the various sectors in Scotland. Scotland has so much to be proud about in current technological advancements and it’s high time to start shouting about them. The Data Lab contingent were speaking in sessions around innovation, health, fintech, eco-system growth, and of course, data science.

Thousands of attendees were undeterred by the weather

If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times on the first day; “I see the Scottish brought the weather with them!” Day 1 was unfortunately a washout, a far cry from the heatwave CogX experienced in 2018. Despite the rain, attendees turned up in their thousands more concerned with the growth in natural language processing techniques than the growing amount of puddles on the ground. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, kicked off the proceedings at the packed-out Impact Stage, discussing Brexit and what London intends to do to continue to foster its tech community.

Highlights from the first day included hearing from Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science, UC Berkeley, Carly Kind, Director at the Ada Lovelace Institute, and Rachel Coldicutt, CEO at Doteveryone. The Ethics stage raised many important points, but the one which resonated the most on that first day was that it was all the wrong people in the room. For a panel titled “Gender and AI” it was almost 90% female attendees. Sadly, there is still a lot of work to be done in raising awareness and the importance around ethics. Day 1 also saw The Data Lab CEO, Gillian Docherty, take to the Lab To Live stage to preach the good word of opportunity in Scotland alongside Amy Williams, founder and CEO of Scottish based company Good-Loop.

Sunshine and Scottish speakers on day two

The second day brought with it some much needed sunshine, and some more Scottish speakers. Verena Reiser, Professor at Heriot-Watt University joined a star-studded panel to discuss “Beyond Virtual Assistants” with speakers from the BBCUniversity of Cambridge and Cobalt Speech. NHS Scotland Senior Information Development Manager, Euan Gardner, then took to the Health Stage and in so doing not only lead the conversation around a new hippocratic oath for those in the health sector, but also won sharpest dressed at CogX. No mean feat for a Tuesday. Other highlights from the day included hearing from Manuela Veloso, Head of AI at JP Morgan, and Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots, at X (Google’s semi-secret R&D department).

Day 3 saw the final member of The Data Lab contingent take to the stage. James Varga, CEO of The ID Co., joined the Innovation, Investment and Economy Stage to discuss “Identity, Financial Crime and Security”. It also saw former Data Summit speaker Joanna Bryson open the Impact Stage, a heated debate on the “Future of Education” with perspectives from the UK, USA, and China, and an incredible discussion on the ethics stage around gender equality in global tech which featured the wonderful work of Marieme Jamme, Founder of I am the CODE.

Scotland is getting it right in the AI and data science sectors

Alongside the insightful speakers across the three days of CogX, networking opportunities were plentiful, and more often than not the conversation tended to revolve around everything Scotland is getting right in the AI and data science sectors at present. Many conversations ended up moving into the realms of possibility for these people in Scotland and what it would require to relocate and take advantage of the circumstances that currently present themselves here. It was refreshing to hear these sentiments coming from individuals based everywhere between London, San Francisco and Singapore. And of course, the free ice cream! This was an initiative by the UN’s Global Goals For Sustainable Development to raise awareness around what you can do to save the world.

A fruitful endeavor, great connections built, and a whole lot of info brought back to Scotland to build on and claim our place as one of the world’s leading nations in artificial intelligence, and Europe’s capital of data. A massive congratulations to Tabitha, Charlie, and the entire CogX team for putting on a wonderful event. Did someone say CogX on tour? See you next year.

Blog by John Callagy, The Data Lab

 

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