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To mark the release of People Plus Machines: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Publishing, we gathered experts in intellectual property from across the public and research sectors to examine the impact of AI on book and journal publishing.
Opening remarks from Annie Callanan, President of the Publishers Association and CEO of Taylor & Francis
The AI and the Future of Publishing panel was chaired by Annie Callanan, President of the Publishers Association and CEO of Taylor & Francis. Annie highlighted the benefits that digital solutions have provided throughout the coronavirus pandemic and credited technological advancements that allowed the virtual event to take place. She stated that technology had managed to bring us together while we had been apart.
Annie then threw out questions that would guide the discussion at the event: “What can technology achieve if we harness its capacity to produce remarkable results? And can the laws and policies we rely on as publishers keep pace with its innovative potential? And that is where this timely report comes in.”
Turning her attention to the People Plus Machines report, Annie was pleased it showed that “publishers are investing in AI in large numbers” noting that “publishers are still often incorrectly perceived to be analogue and old-fashioned; harbingers of the age of dusty printing presses. Quite to the contrary; this report attests to the digital drive of UK publishers as they seek new discoveries, new customers and new technological solutions. And it finds that we are at a watershed moment.”
Annie emphatically assured the audience that AI in publishing is not replacing humans, saying, “This technology is freeing up humans to be more creative, to explore new research areas and to change education provision. In publishing, humans and tech are co-existing and are working in partnership.”
Before bringing her opening remarks to a close, Annie spoke about the aligned vision of the UK government and the publishing industry:
“Like publishers, the UK is facing a watershed moment. The government is looking to build its vision of Global Britain. This Global Britain is an international research leader, an exporter of soft-power and home to the world’s best and most innovative businesses.
“Publishers can help to achieve this goal. Especially if investment to AI in our sector is unlocked. We can produce more world-leading research, more Booker prize winning novels and more tools to equip our students with the knowledge they need to design their future. We are natural partners in this pursuit. Publishing can help build Global Britain.”
Claire Chapman, Head of Data at the Office for AI
Claire Chapman, Head of Data at the Office for AI, spoke about how pleased she was to see the publication of this report as it brings together two areas where Britain is a global leader – publishing (and the creative industries) and AI. Claire stated that both the creative industries and AI have been identified as priorities by the government’s industrial strategy.
Addressing one of the main challenges that was identified in the report – access to AI skills – Claire talked about investment and initiatives that the government are undertaking. These include investing £100 million in 16 centres for training and putting another £50 million into AI fellowships to attract and retain the top talent. The government are also working to create a business-funded AI masters programme and delivering up to 2,500 degree conversion courses in AI and data science. There will be up to 1,000 scholarships available for these courses, with the aim of making the AI workforce more diverse.
Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office
Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, stated that the UK IPO are committed to understanding how AI impacts the IP framework and what they may need to do to continue to incentivise the adoption of AI.
Ros shared that the UK’s Intellectual Property Office want to be thought leaders on AI in the IP world. They have been pushing international partners to develop their understanding of AI and its potential.
Ros invited publishers to provide their insight into the implications AI might have for IP policy by taking part in the IPO’s call for views, which is open until 30 November.
Catherine Etienne, Senior Associate at Frontier Economics
Catherine Etienne, Senior Associate at Frontier Economics and co-author of the People Plus Machines report, talked through the most striking findings of the report. She emphasised its timeliness, stating that the next couple of years will be critical for investment in AI. Despite most investment starting recently, within two years we can expect to see AI present in every step of the publishing value chain.
Catherine shared that the potential benefits were a key driver of investment in AI. These benefits will be felt by publishers themselves but also their customers, authors and wider society. She stated that, “AI has a great ability to conduct complex, repetitive tasks faster – and when done right – better than humans… AI can free up humans to work on more creative, high value tasks.”
Catherine also spoke about collaboration as useful in crossing the barrier of a lack of AI skills. She highlighted that all the case studies in the report were the result of publishers collaborating with outside companies to access these key skills.
The panellists then took questions from the audience. The topics of these included the ongoing trade negotiations, Britain being the centre of much research and development in the AI and education space and collaboration with international partners being crucial to ensuring the UK stays as one of the gloabl centres for AI development.
Closing remarks from Annie Callanan
Annie closed the event by expressing her hope that the report and event had addressed the misperception that AI would replace humans, saying, “AI is a tool that can assist and enhance human activity.”
She added, “We are at a watershed moment for AI in publishing. At the very start of what will undoubtably be an exciting journey. I look forward to continuing the conversation.”
For more insight into the role AI will play in the publishing industry, you can read the People Plus Machines report here and watch interviews with Catherine Etienne and Dan Conway, Director of External Affairs at the Publishers Association, here.