COVID-19: A perspective on artificial intelligence

COVID-19: A perspective on artificial intelligence

Dr Rebecca Pope, Director of Data Science and Engineering, discusses the challenge AI is facing with unknown data in the New Reality

Rebecca Pope

Director, Data Science & Engineering

KPMG in the UK


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“No intelligent system, whether that be human or machine, would have predicted the significant changes in our online behaviours.”

In our latest video, Dr Rebecca Pope, Director of Data Science and Engineering, discusses the challenges facing artificial intelligence (AI) systems in the new reality post COVID-19. 

AI systems and machine learning technologies learn from historical information. They identify patterns in that information, and they use those patterns to make inferences or predictions about the future state of the world. But no person or machine could have predicted how the COVID-19 pandemic would change our behaviours.

In February and March, digital shopping baskets were full of face masks, hand sanitisers and paracetamol. That’s something it would have been hard to predict, and thus there were shortages. From a mathematical perspective COVID-19 represents a black swan event.

The AI systems that we put in production for our clients are often fed with real-time information, and those AI systems must be able to adapt and cope to the changes to the data coming in; known as model drift. While this isn’t new, what COVID-19 has ushered in an aggressive and accelerated model drift that has eroded the predictive capability of these systems.

Does this mean AI doesn’t have a place in a post COVID world?

No. What it does mean, though, is that businesses need to take time to revisit and revalidate their models. 

At KPMG, we’re doing exactly that. We’re using adversarial attacks in our production systems to understand not only the predictive capabilities that are enabling our business to function, but also under what parameters or scenarios those production level systems, fuelled by AI, fail. That will allow us to grow our business resilience. 

To find out more about how AI has been impacted, and how it can, in fact, help build greater resilience for businesses, take a look at our Technology in the New Reality - Exploring the use of data, automation, cloud and artificial intelligence’ webinar

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