The AI elephant in the room

And other highlights from The London Book Fair 2018

Two years ago, almost to the day, Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom, the Founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, addressed the crowd at The London Book Fair’s Quantum Conference and gave a riveting keynote talk entitled The Machine Intelligence Revolution.

During his presentation, he compared the likely impact of machine intelligence to that of the industrial revolution — with the latter automating manual labour and the former automating intellectual labour. He also predicted that its legacy and impact on the human condition will be even more profound, and that by 2040 we will see machines capable of human-level intelligence, and very shortly after, machines achieving super-intelligence.

While the audience at the time was familiar with terms such as Big Data and augmented reality (AR), the discussion was probably the first time many had been introduced to concepts such as AI and deep learning. On that day, Bostrom didn’t tackle the elephant in the room: “What impact will the machine intelligence revolution have on publishing?”, but the future-gazing talk put the subject on the map and gave the industry something to think long and hard about.

At the time, several delegates dismissed the content of his talk as the stuff of science fiction, a million miles away from their day job of publishing books. For some others, however, it was the starting point of a journey of introspection, where they started to ask themselves important questions such as: How can publishers benefit from machine intelligence? What will the publisher of tomorrow look like? What are the key skills which will be needed? Which roles are likely to be affected by this machine intelligence revolution? And when and how will we need to adapt our models and working practices?

Fast forward two years and, bar a few presentations from technology brands at LBF’s technology stage, Artificial Intelligence seems to have lost its prominence in the seminar programme. It remains to be seen whether or not this is because the industry is more concerned about perceived pressing short-term issues like cashing in on the growth of audiobooks and navigating global economic issues such as Brexit. It is also unclear whether and to what extent publishers today have a clear idea about its practical applications, how it will affect their businesses, and how they will adapt their practices to accommodate it, instead of being disrupted by it.


In spite of this omission, and while Bostrom’s elephant in the room arguably still remains (particularly outside technology circles), significantly topics such as Blockchain and crypto culture have come to the fore in this year’s LBF seminar programme. It is refreshing to see certain pockets of the industry, such as the academic, children’s, and the self-publishing markets, leading the way and debating these innovations on this global stage. Here are PageMajik’s top ten picks from LBF’s speaking programme, for those looking to expand their minds and look to the future:

Discoverability, Superabundance and How to Rise to the Fore

Monday, 9 April 2018, 11:30–12:15

Quantum Conference (the conference centre)

Use your Data to Drive Revenue

Tuesday, 10 April 2018, 13:00–14:00

The Faculty

Blockchain For Books: Towards An Author Centred Payment Model

Tuesday, 10 April 2018, 14:30–15:30

Olympia Room Grand Hall

Taking the Fear Out of AI: Machine Versus Human, or Technology Enabler for Humanity

Tuesday, 10 April 2018, 15:15–15:45

The Buzz Theatre

Bringing Blockchain to Publishing: Funding Books Like Never Before

Tuesday, 10 April 2018, 15:45–16:30

Author HQ

Scaling Foreign Rights and Reprints With Automation

Tuesday, 10 April 2018, 16:00–17:00

International Export Theatre

Small Steps, Giant Leaps: The Digital Transformation Experience

Wednesday, 11 April 2018, 13:00–14:00

The Faculty

Meeting the Changing Needs of Academic Publishing

Thursday, 12 April 2018, 11:30–12:30

The Faculty

Get A Self-Publishing 3.0 Mindset (ALLi)

Thursday, 12 April 2018, 11:45–12:30

Author HQ

Disruptive Publishing

Thursday, 12 April 2018, 14:30–15:30

Children’s Hub


To visit the PageMajik team at The London Book Fair please come to stands 3B28 and 3B30

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