PICMET '19 Keynotes


"Artificial Intelligence – Confronting The Ethical Dilemmas"

Mr. John R. McDougall, Hon Col (ret), B.Sc. (Alberta) 1967, P.Eng., CD, CStJ, C.Dir., FCAE, FEC, FGC (Hon), Fellow PICMET, Canada

We are getting closer to a world in which decision-making is moving beyond our ability to directly oversee it. How will moral and ethical understanding be addressed in AI and machine learning? We can already see the tip of the challenge in driverless vehicles – in collision avoidance for instance, when the AI system confronts alternatives about what should be avoided – hitting another vehicle, striking a pedestrian, going off the side of a bridge or hitting a light standard? Can we train machines to make ethical choices or just objective ones? For example, should an AI decision focus preferentially on its own vehicle, on third parties, or on the overall degree of capital damaged? How will it know what is ethically and morally superior when confronted with choosing between a mother with a young child, an elderly person with a walker, a group of school children or a gasoline tanker truck? Even if we can train a system to develop an ethical framework, whose ethical values should prevail?

In a world of intelligent systems, such choices will be confronted on a continuous basis in a wide range of applications including health care, education, journalism, law, security and personal privacy just to name a few. What limitations will we need to place on our systems? Who should do that? And how will we be able to create an open and constructive environment to have such important but difficult conversations without people simply taking offense? In a world in which values are also in continuous evolution, the need for care is enormous. This presentation is intended to open our minds to some of the challenges we must seriously consider as AI technology applications expand and become more pervasive.

Mr. John R. McDougall

Mr. John McDougall has 50 years of experience in 75 countries in the natural resource, IT, manufacturing, consulting, real estate and investment industries as well as research and development and academia. He retired from Canada’s National Research Council after six years as President, a position he accepted after 12 years as CEO of the Alberta Research Council. He was the inaugural Chair in Management for Engineers at the University of Alberta from 1991-97, and he initiated Innoventures Canada Inc. in 2006 to bring together Canada’s leading research and technology organizations providing technology development, demonstration and deployment services as centers of excellence for commercialization and research.

In the private sector, after eight years with a multinational, he managed and founded firms in real estate, investment and development, frontier exploration and logistics, project management, technology development, economics and economic development, financial and business planning, data processing and custom software development and natural gas brokerage. He has also served as an outside director or advisor to several public and private firms.      

Mr. McDougall is an active volunteer in business, professional and not-for-profit organizations where holding leadership positions in local, national and international organizations such as The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Centre, Capital Care Foundation, Engineers Canada, St. John’s Ambulance, Eureka and the G8 Heads of Research Organizations. He has also served on dozens of academic and government committees and agencies.      

He has received medals and recognition including the 2015 PICMET award for Leadership in Technology Management, Honorary membership in the Mexican College of Civil Engineers and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.      




"Polymaths and Accelerated Intelligence"

Dr. Bulent Atalay, Professor, University of Mary Washington and the University of Virginia; Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA

The Anglo-American expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” is a dismissive pejorative discrediting the notion of spreading oneself thin. And it has equivalent expressions in most world cultures. A Chinese version reads, “Armed with ten knives, yet none of them sharp.” An Estonian version offers a different metaphor, “Nine trades, the tenth hunger.” A rare version that has only positive connotations is the Turkish expression, "On parmağında on marifet” (“Ten skills on ten fingers”), suggesting praise for individuals with a diversity of interests.

In the prevailing model of technology engineers and innovators specialize in one field or another. But as recent research points out, through the ages most successful innovators have been polymaths. The list includes Archimedes, Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Huygens, Hooke, Newton, Leibnitz, Darwin, Pasteur, Maxwell, Einstein, and in modern times Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk.

Drawing on information from different disciplines cannot fail to create fertile grounds for progress. This is the essence of Leonardo’s Model. Newton, physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor, theologian, and natural philosopher, succeeded in showing that the universe was mathematical. And even his preoccupation with alchemy, now discredited as a pseudoscience, helped him to visualize action-at-a-distance and the idea of invisible fields. Shakespeare understood human behavior better than any psychoanalyst and separately he harbored an obsession for history — especially, the histories of England, Scotland, Denmark, Ancient Rome, and medieval Italy. Their settings became the backdrops for his historical plays.

Goethe and Darwin, both impressive polymaths in their own right, were dazzled by the diversity of interests demonstrated by Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). The Prussian aristocrat — traveler, essayist, naturalist, botanist, etymologist, ornithologist, geologist, oceanographer, and meteorologist — is still regarded as one of the finest scientific explorers in history. But even von Humboldt does not come close to Leonardo as the “master of all trades.” Along with every branch of science and engineering, Leonard also painted… better than anyone else. “The universal genius” and “the greatest genius in history” are frequently invoked in describing the breadth and depth of Leonardo’s universe. The artist-scientist’s functionally symmetric brain — that magnificent instrument of his effort to satiate an insatiable curiosity — questioned and analyzed relentlessly in inventing the future. Inspired by Leonardo’s Model, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) created the Da Vinci Center where all projects call for the collaborative endeavors of the departments of engineering, art, and business, together integrating form, function, and economy.

Dr. Bulent Atalay

Dr. Bulent Atalay is a scientist, artist, and author. Described by NPR, PBS, Smithsonian and the Washington Post as a “Modern Renaissance Man”. He is the author of two best-selling books on the intersection of art, science and mathematics, where Leonardo, the pre-eminent Renaissance man, serves as the focal point. His best-selling book, "Math and the Mona Lisa," (Smithsonian Books, 2004) has appeared in 14 languages; and Leonardo's Universe (National Geographic Books, 2009) has appeared in English and Japanese, and was declared, “One of ten must-have books,” by the Britannica. Bulent’s academic background is in theoretical physics, distilled from work at Georgetown, UCal-Berkeley, Princeton, Oxford, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He travels around the world lecturing at academic institutions and on cruise ships on the "A-subjects," art, archaeology, astrophysics, atomic physics and Ataturk, confessing that he knows much less about the "B-subjects," business, banking, biology and botany... He has given lectures at Caltech, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, NASA, NIST, NIH, and PICMET.
























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