Here East’s Gavin Poole on AI, esports and Tech Week

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The notebook is a place for interesting people to say interesting things. Today, it’s Gavin Poole, CEO of Stratford tech hub Here East

Last week, almost every front page of our national newspapers quoted the ‘AI pioneers’ warning us that AI advancements may lead to our own extinction – akin, they said, to nuclear weapons or another pandemic. Of course, whenever an expert of this status takes to the floor, we must listen. But, at the same time, won’t the ‘existential risk’ of AI depend largely on how we apply it?

Although we should certainly monitor the usage of artificial intelligence, we should also be embracing the potential of this technology to truly reap its benefits. As we have already discovered, AI can improve our lives in innumerable ways – from optimising work, accelerating cures for illnesses, driving progress towards a carbon-free world, enhancing education, powering economic growth, and helping emerging nations to rapidly industrialise. 

Creating the conditions for AI to evolve safely will be crucial to this progress. But most importantly, we need to train people – especially our young people – on how to use the technology properly. As many of our children prepare for GCSE and A-Levels this summer, I’m convinced that AI should form part of the curriculum. Soon enough, the modern arms race will be centred around who has the most AI-savvy workforce, and who can maximise this tool as an enhancer of innovation, productivity, and creativity. 

It is not in our best interest to simply dismiss AI as an apocalyptic event in the making. Engaging in conversation about how we use it is vital, which is why this week, Here East is convening the best and brightest minds to discuss the AI debate at our campus in East London. We hope to make some considerable headway in answering the question – AI: Friend or Foe? 

East London at the forefront of the global esports scene

President Macron has recently won plaudits for efforts to position France as a ‘great esports nation’. We shouldn’t overlook London’s pioneering efforts though. Specifically in East London, where post-Olympic Games, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been transformed into a leading destination for gaming, with the Mayor of London recently calling it a “global leader in esports.” Just last month, major esports tournaments took place at the Olympic Park, including the twenty-day League of Legends tournament, welcoming thousands to East London. With Paris hosting the Olympics next year, Macron’s support of the esports scene seems like an apt time to consider London’s own Olympic legacy and promote it too.

London Tech Week

According to recent research, London has snatched the global tech capital crown from New York. I was somewhat surprised to hear that we were in a tussle for this crown. Having spent time in Austin at this year’s SXSW festival, there was no disputing that London firmly held this title. As London Tech Week approaches, I hope discussion will focus on how London is one of the best cities in the world to do business in tech, and how we can retain our global status. 

Is London Meta-ready? 

At a Meta summit last month, Nick Clegg extolled virtual reality’s “transformative” role in training and education. At Here East, we have been experimenting with this technology to delve into a virtual world – one that experts predict we will be spending more and more time in. The UK continues to face difficult questions about our digital skills gap and how we create growth opportunities to build the UK’s very own Silicon Valley. As with AI, the answer is simple: embrace, understand, learn then master.

Gavin Poole is the CEO of Stratford tech hub Here East

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