Rapper and TV star Will.i.am has visited Newcastle to help launch a new project exploring how the public can learn to regain trust in digital technology.
The Black Eyed Peas star helped launch a new research projected called FinTrust which will explore how artificial intelligence (AI) is used when it comes to making lending decisions.
FinTrust is being led by Newcastle University in partnership with Durham-based digital lender Atom Bank, where Will.i.am holds a role as board member and strategic adviser. The three-year scheme will examine whether AI leads to bias and financial exclusion.
By taking an in-depth look at how machine learning is used, FinTrust hopes to correct issues and help the public re-learn how to trust tech firms in an environment where data is often stolen or leaked.
Taking to the stage at Newcastle University’s Urban Sciences Building, Will.i.am explained the importance of technology and how individuals will use their own data in the future.
He said: “In 2021 we are going to be living in a day and age where we own our own data. People use that loosely but that is not the actual reality of it.
“I own my songs but I don’t own my facial map. I own my DNA and blood, and I can sell it, but I can’t sell my data. Other people access my data and use it but I can’t.
“But around the corner that is going to be the reality. There will be systems in place that don’t exist right now. Tomorrow, right around the corner, is going to be really awesome.
“On the point of biased algorithms, that is going to be a very tough future for us to navigate around as well. Finance is going to change too.
“Biased algorithms will be a tough thing too. Data is going to be money tomorrow. It is money today. Ask companies that give you something for free that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Data is money.
“But not for people. Not for communities, and that is going to change. That is why it is really exciting to be these conversations ping ponging back and forth, taking what I learnt in my company and what we learnt in AI and sharing it and collaborating with awesome folks like Atom and providing what they are doing with AI.”
One of the main focuses of FinTrust will be looking at how AI arrives at its decisions and determining whether that can lead to biases against certain group’s of people, such as women or ethnic minorities.
Prof Aad Van Moorsel, from Newcastle University, said: “Modern-day financial services increasingly rely on ‘robo-advice’, in which smart algorithms will make automated decisions about mortgages and other financial matters in seconds.
“But no-one knows if computers rather than humans making decisions increases the risk of bias against certain groups of people and whether this could lead to new forms of financial distress and financial exclusion.
“This innovative project will explore how consumer trust in banks and financial services can be enhanced while retaining the benefits of mobile banking that we now take for granted.”
FinTrust is funded by a £1.2m grant from UK Research and Innovation. The Digital Economy Theme focuses on a range of challenges including those around trust, identity, privacy and security.
Edward Twiddy, chief innovation officer at Atom bank, said: “As more and more of us choose to use mobile banking and interact using bots driven by AI, we need to know how to create relationships based on trust between companies and customers. There are massive benefits for customers from better use of personal data, but realising these benefits has to be done in a secure way, without bias and ultimately in a manner that builds and maintains trust.
“Atom will use the outputs from the research to inform and improve the design of future innovative products and services. One of the first applications of the research will be in the development of our blockchain to build better mortgages, a major innovation project drawing on blockchain expertise from Newcastle University’s Computer Science department and crypto-statisticians at the University of Durham’s maths department.”
Will.i.am has worked with Atom Bank since before the company’s launch and joined its board as strategic adviser last year. Although he is best known as a musician and member of the Black Eyed Peas, he is also an entrepreneur and his tech start-up I.am+ raised $117m last year to fund its entry into the corporate computing market.
Source : Chroniclelive