We need to do something about job loss but I don’t think it’s UBI

The first time I worked on an automation project, I noticed the change within minutes. I could see the fear in their eyes as we explained the project to the them. What was supposed to be good news was received as bad news.

I’d sat with the customer service team to understand where the agents wasted the most time. We then designed the project to divert easy and frequently asked questions to a chatbot. We wanted to give the agents more time to focus on difficult or unusual questions. …


I’ve been manipulated.

No, really, Facebook have got me. I’m their perfect patsy. They show me an advert for a casual iPhone game and I’ll download it. I see it, I download it, I play it for all of 20 minutes and then I delete it. Every. Single. Time.

What does it mean to target people like this? What’s legal? What’s ethical? When does influence become manipulation?

Remember Cambridge Analytica? They managed to “influence” voters in seemingly every major election of the last 10 years.

In his book Mindf*ck, whistleblower Christopher Wylie explains the process. “A select minority of people…


What do Babylon Health, WeWork and Netflix have in common? Three seemingly unrelated companies, working in three different industries. Healthcare, Real Estate and Entertainment. Not much to connect them, except they’re all using data to become extraordinarily profitable.

They’re among the best examples of data-driven businesses, and they’re all reaping the rewards today. Forrester says that data-driven companies are growing 8x global GDP. This article sets the scene for you to become part of that group.

In my mind, there are three areas that companies should focus on to become data-driven: Productivity, Prediction and Personalisation. …


Data-driven personalisation will radically transform your ability to compete. It’s time to start now.

The world is full of noise. Unless you’ve built a true monopoly (in which case you really don’t need my help), chances are there are a whole slew of competitors vying for your customers’ attention. But how do you stand out from the crowd? How can you do things differently?

Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business, you know they’re doing something that you aren’t. — Malcolm X

Our customers are more savvy now. You can’t impress them with a well designed website, backed by some solid technology. They…


People are afraid of AI: there’s scaremongering from the media; any movie which depicts AI ends in disaster; Elon Musk keeps banging the drum about the risks of AI. I’d love to tell you that everything’s going to be ok, but there’s real cause for concern.

It’s not that machines will wake up one day and decide that they’d be more efficient without pesky humans getting in the way. The risk is that we won’t be able to tell the machines what we want them to do.

It’s important to understand, at least superficially, how artificial intelligence works before we…


According to Stanford University, you can predict someone’s sexual preference from a photograph of their face. The study analyzed 35,000 images and built an algorithm that could predict your sexual orientation.

This knowledge exists now, and it can’t be withdrawn from the zeitgeist. Around the world, people are trying to figure out how to use this information for their own benefit. There are marketing professionals trying to figure out how to apply this in their bid to sell more of what they’re selling. There are insurance companies trying to figure out if they can use this as a datapoint when…


There’s a bad habit that we, as an industry, need to shake. We need to stop treating machines like they’re people. Example? I was in a shop the other day and one of the self-service checkouts had a note covering the screen.

“Sorry, I’m poorly at the minute.”

If you’re not from the UK, ‘poorly’ in this context means unwell. I hate to break it to you but the machine isn’t unwell. It can’t tell you that it’s not feeling itself. It won’t ever apologise for it.


Or don’t oversell what Artificial Intelligence can do

I’m an optimist. I have to be because I’m responsible for setting the artificial intelligence strategy for a well-funded health tech startup in the UK. But I’m feeling more and more anxious about my work.

There’s been a lot in the press about how robots are going to take our jobs; about how AI is only as unbiased as the data it’s built on and unfortunately we’re more racist than we’d care to admit; about how we’re on the verge of creating super-intelligence which will threaten our very existence (“the singularity”). …


Or how incremental gains let you take baby steps

There’s a misconception about artificial intelligence that I want to clear up.

I tell people what I do for a living and they assume I have a PhD. They think I can prove all the mathematics that underpins the algorithms from memory. They believe they could never do my job.

In reality, I’m a software engineer who’s found myself doing machine learning by accident. I didn’t set out to find this job but it was a good fit and I wanted a challenge. …


Although I promised I was going to write more after my 30 Day Writing Challenge, it’s been radio silence. It’s time I told you what I’ve been up to.

I started my new job, building artificial intelligence for a startup in Birmingham, UK. I’m currently the only person in a business of ~80 people working on machine learning (although we’re hiring so contact me on Twitter if you’re interested). It’s only because of a forward-thinking CTO that I’ve been given free reign to add value using all the data we’re generating daily.

The first project I’ve tackled is a customer…

Josh Sephton

Founder of Pritchatts Consulting Ltd., making companies more profitable by making their data work for them.

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