Future Computing – Magic Wand for Innovation or Threat to Humanity?

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

From the rise of artificial intelligence to the dawn of quantum computing, technology will reshape our future. In this Falling Walls Circle Table, the panel asks how we can ensure that these new tools tackle the world’s problems, without posing a fundamental threat to our societies and democracies.

As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, its environmental footprint also grows, raising the need for improved efficiency and a circular design approach. Future computing could also allow for a concentration of power, whether that’s for companies, countries or governments. There is an increasing threat that this power could be misused, for political gain or personal profit.

It is crucial that future computing technologies are democratised, so that they are as widely available – and accessible – as possible. Tech companies must embrace diversity, so that solutions are found for the full range of humanity’s problems. Given that the future of humanity is at stake, regulation and laws must be put in place as safeguards.

Collaboration must be at the heart of innovation. After all, today’s problems are truly global, so require truly global solutions.

Alison Kennedy

Science and Technology Facilities Council, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Alison Kennedy has recently been appointed as Strategic Advisor for eInfrastructure (High Performance Computing (HPC) and AI) to the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK. Until the end of March 2022, she was Director of the Hartree Centre whose mission is to accelerate the adoption of technologies such as HPC, HPDA, AI and quantum computing by UK industry, leading to economic and productivity gains for the UK. Backed by £172m of government money to launch the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, the centre has recently extended its collaboration with IBM Research in this 5 year programme. Prior to joining the Hartree Centre in 2016, Alison held dual roles as an Executive Director of EPCC, the national HPC Centre based at the University of Edinburgh and as Managing Director of the PRACE aisbl (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe).

She has undergraduate degrees in History and in Mathematics and Technology and a post-graduate degree in Business Administration. Alison began her working life as a real-time systems programmer in industry, progressing to roles in project management, software product management and in sales. She has now worked in HPC for almost 30 years, managing large organisations, projects and collaborations in HPC, Data and AI. Alison is a co-founder of the Women in HPC organisation, served as the organisation’s first Chair and currently sits on WHPC’s Advisory Board.