For five days in December, tech-enthusiasts from around the world met at (or logged on to) the fifth edition of DataFest, hosted this year at the headquarters of Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency in Tbilisi. The conference brought together hundreds of data professionals from around the world and featured local and international speakers who offered their views on a range of data-centric topics, including business and startups, data visualization, and its role in activism and governance.
Three AmCham members shared their expertise at DataFest – here are some of the main takeaways.
Hans Gutbrod – individual member
Hans Gutbrod, an active AmCham member and head of the chamber’s Agribusiness Committee, highlighted lessons from an international campaign he worked on to increase the transparency of funding that goes to policy research. He noted that research and lobbying are often mixed up, contributing to widespread cynicism about expertise. In order to change this, one key step was to make transparency measurable with a simple five-star system that was easy to understand and communicate. Through sustained engagement, and with the prospect of public scrutiny, many think tanks decided to increase their disclosure. In the end, a campaign with limited funding, based out of Tbilisi and conducted part-time, helped to make more than $100 million of research funding around the world more transparent. Noting that transparency is an integral part of communicating confidence in the integrity of one’s work, Gutbrod suggested that some of these approaches could be used to tackle other problems, such as helping people to find lifestyles that contribute to their long-term health.
William Dunbar – Zinc Network
AmCham member Zinc Network’s William Dunbar is the Deputy Chief of Party of the USAID’s Georgian Information Integrity Program. Dunbar presented the winners of the inaugural Counter Disinformation Innovation Competition, a joint project of the Program and Startup Grind Tbilisi. The competition, which sees Georgian tech companies compete for USD 42,500 in funding to design tools that will help NGOs better research and combat disinformation, aims to forge partnerships between the world of tech and civil society to more effectively tackle disinformation together. The competition’s three winners, Pulsar.ai, MetaMine, and WaveTech.ai, each presented their ground-breaking tools to a wider audience for the first time at DataFest.
On show were two sophisticated transcription tools (capable of converting Georgian video and audio content into searchable text and performing rudimentary narrative analysis), as well as a public database aggregation software (capable of pulling and tracking open-source data such as donations and business registrations). Disinformation monitors from outside of Georgia were especially impressed with the potential of the winning entries, whose technology could make a difference to those fighting disinformation all over the world.
Irakli Gogatishvili – Bank of Georgia
Irakli Gogatishvili, who is the Head of the Data Research Lab at Bank of Georgia, opened the final day of the event with his talk entitled “Cognitive Architectures for AI: towards Creative Problem-Solving Systems”. In his presentation, Gogatishvili discussed cognitive-emotional architectures for AI endowed with creative problem-solving capabilities. He touched on both the embodiment and autonomy dilemmas in the creation of AI, challenging the audience to discuss the merits and drawbacks of equipping AI with human-like psycho-emotional characteristics. Central to his discussion was the thesis that it is crucial to maintain a balance between human dominance of the systems they create while also giving those systems sufficient freedoms to fulfill their purpose and make human lives better. Otherwise, humanity could face a scenario in which AI systems can claim human rights for themselves and try to assert AI supremacy over mankind.