UpFront 07/23

Hearing Charlie Fardon’s story (p24) about how she once started a business selling CDs for unsigned bands through local hairdressers, and now works with an organisation that helps innovative young people to set up their own businesses, is a story of hope for the future. Especially at a time when hope is something that older generations fear has been taken away from our youth. The organisation that Charlie will offer advice to, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is the UK’s leading public funder of environmental science. They invest £330 million each year and recently announced investment in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry. A consortium called Responsible AI UK (RAIUK) aims to create “a UK and international research and innovation ecosystem for responsible and trustworthy AI that will be responsive to the needs of society”. £54 million has been earmarked for various university projects including research to help create more sustainable land management, accelerate energy-efficient CO2 capture, and improve resilience for natural hazards and extreme events. In our interview with British designer and digital photographer Mike Kus (p34), who is selecting exhibitors for the Digital Media category for this year’s Marshwood Arts Awards, he says he believes that AI will leave a more profound impact on our society than even the internet. It already impacts our lives in many forms. A recent AI innovation that raised an eye or two was news that supermarket trolleys could help to identify risk of stroke. We’ve had various sensor devices used in athletes clothing for some time but the latest trial of installing electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors in the handles of supermarket trolleys to screen adults for abnormal heart rhythms as they shop might be seen as a little intrusive. Although perhaps not quite as intrusive as installing a recording device in part of our anatomy, as one imaginative person informed me at a recent drinks party. Apparently, he explained, my life-changing new hip might be recording private conversations and sending them to Google ‘or God knows who!’ What a pity it’s not true. It might have helped me to discover what Zaphod Beeblebrox was doing at a drinks party in Dorset.