The conference featured panels on ‘marketing for millennials’ and ‘the future of talent’, and insights on blockchain and the internet of things, but the dominant theme under discussion, permeating most of the panels, was artificial intelligence – both the potential of the positives and the mitigation of the negatives. Data also played a part here, with Patrick Chung, founding partner of venture capital group Xfund, seeing a world where cures for diseases are discovered by intelligent machines checking databases. Joseph Sirosh showed the audience how farming companies are becoming more efficient by having “connected cows”, measuring step-count and crunching data to monitor fertility. “AI blossoms on top of the cloud,” said Sirosh. “And every part of behaviour on this planet is becoming digital. This gives oxygen for AI.”
Artificial intelligence was summed up by Barclays’ Head of Client and Customer Experience, Matt Hammerstein, as “the fourth dimension of economic growth”, taking the marginal cost of service to zero and, with reinforced learning making AI ever more responsive, allowing “conversations to go on as long as customers want them to”.
The impact of this on both customers and the workforce was considered at length. Jes Staley noted that AI does not always cost jobs. He relayed how, on the 50th anniversary of Barclays installing the first ATM, he checked whether the company has more or less bank-tellers than half a century ago – and found it has more.
With the technological ground shifting beneath our feet, and a generation of “digital natives” coming of age in a world disrupted by companies and utilities that would have been unimaginable two decades ago, Matt Hammerstein said of the New Frontiers Conference: “The nature of this is a conversation. Convening like this helps us all take advantage of technological change, and we have a responsibility as an institution to help this facilitate social good.”