No. 206: Congressional AI Task Force | NYC AI Center | Microsoft Opens AI Playbook

Waters Announces Committee Task Forces on Financial Technology and Artificial Intelligence (US House Committee on Financial Services)

I’m glad to see Rep. Alma Adams on the artificial intelligence committee. My hope is that she asks those questions that get at the unintended consequences around the meshing of AI technology and financial services and those impacts on vulnerable Americans.

The concerning part about this is that this is work that should have taken place a years ago. The Chinese government released its AI strategy in 2017 and cities are investing in AI research at the level of the U.S. government. The White House just started thinking through AI policy a couple years ago. It’s water under the bridge now, but I look forward to following this committee and hope they staff up well and move quickly.

Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as successful on its own, but those defense contracts 40 years ago served as a huge wind to its back. Even today, companies like Tesla have benefited greatly from government investment. Currently, the private sector is investing heavy in AI. The US won’t lead in this space until the government gets itself together to put resources behind the development of AI technology in a coordinated fashion.

As an aside, I remember seeing Rep. Adams around Greensboro as a kid growing up. She and Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson shaped my view of who could lead. Grateful for their model.

(Erica, I’m rooting for you!)

NYCEDC Seeks Proposals for Responsible Artificial Intelligence Center (GlobeSt)

Cities across the US would do well to follow New York City and have at least a few folks think proactively about AI and how their city can shape its development and impact on their locale. This effort by NYC to stand up a center that shapes the development of artificial intelligence is important and commendable.

There’s one caveat. I mentioned in the above section that cities are investing in AI at the level of the U.S. For more context there, Shanghai is standing up a nearly $15B fund to invest in AI research and development. Contrast that with the $7M with which NYC will support its Center for Responsible Artificial Intelligence.

Creating AI glass boxes – Open sourcing a library to enable intelligibility in machine learning (Microsoft Research)

This is a strong move by Microsoft to build a tool that helps folks understand what the AI they are using is actually doing. The movie Margin Call came to mind while reading this. Something like this might have been helpful as banks were spinning up models they didn’t understand in the lead up to the financial crisis of 2008.

No. 152: 3AMReads: Upside in African Financial Services | Lonmin Moves Ops to Marikana | China Pledges $100B

Investor Highlights African Financial Services Opportunity Despite Headwinds

Kurt Davis surveys the financial services industry across Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire as ones where investors will find an upside though the current state of the industry isn’t the prettiest to look at. His projection of Cote d’Ivoire becoming the centerpiece of regional financial services action in West Africa is a really interesting that makes sense given the countries growth trajectory so far. Before that happens, I’m going to need the military to improve its operations, find money to pay soldiers, and decrease the specter of mutiny.

Lonmin Moves to Marikana

My mind immediately went to the Marikana Massacre a few years ago when I saw the news that Lonmin was moving it’s Johannesburg office to Marikana where dozens of Lonmin workers were killed by South African police during a wildcat strike. A couple years after that, the company along with the rest of South Africa’s platinum miners went through a very long strike that really put a dent in South Africa’s already struggling growth rate. Lonmin CEO Ben Magara got his start working in the mines and says that he wants to be closer to the company’s operation. Relations between the company and its employees aren’t getting any better with workers protesting last week. Hopefully this move helps improve relations.

China Pledges $100B to Finance Projects Globally

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted several global leaders for China’s One Belt, One Road Forum. A year or so ago, China launched this effort as part of its aims to connect 60+ countries through a vast transport and logistics network to drive trade. Kenya and Ethiopia’s presidents were in attendance, and both have already seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investment as part of this effort. China’s trade with African countries is already sizeable at $39B for Q1 2017, and we can expect that number to grow significantly in the coming years if China is able to execute the projects it targets and gets paid back. If not, there could be a lot of debt floating around the world. African countries, particularly the ones that have issued large bonds in recent years, would do well to really ensure they have revenue streams to cover more debt should they pursue it.