It might not be rise of the machines, but an Artificial intelligence now sits on the board of directors for a large company.
Meet VITAL, a program that works for Deep Knowledge Ventures.
What exactly is VITAL?
VITAL is an algorithm tool. This means it goes through huge amounts of data faster than any human could.
Deep Knowledge Ventures, the firm that has purchased (or should the term be hired?) VITAL wants to use it to make investment recommendations about life sciences firms with this information.
Like all the human members of the board, the algorithm gets to vote on whether the firm makes an investment in a specific company or not. Truly, the program will be the sixth member of board. The company’s also insisting the tool will be treated as an “equal” to the other board members.
Not everyone agrees.
“A lot of companies use large data search to access what is happening on the market, then the board or trusted workers can decide on the advice. With financial markets, algorithms are delegated with decisions. The idea of the algorithm voting is a gimmick. It is not different from the algorithm making a suggestion and the board voting on it”, said Prof Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield.
How can a computer make a Decision?
VITAL’s software was developed by a UK company called Aging Analytics.
Aging Analytics licensed VITAL to Deep Knowledge Ventures on May 5 2014. The algorithm was originally developed in cooperation with the Center for Biogerontology and Regenerative Medicine.
“We developed VITAL with the goal of creating software that can intuitively predict the success of a project or a company at the initial seed funding level based up on an extensive analysis of historical data,” Andrew Garazha, senior analyst at Aging Analytics, said. “Our goal through iterative releases and updates is to create a piece of software that is capable of making autonomous investment decisions.”
VITAL makes its decisions by scanning prospective companies’ financing, clinical trials, intellectual property and previous funding rounds.
In other words, it uses machine learning to analyze data to predict successful investments.
Perhaps the most shocking bit about all this technology? It’s working.
According to Charles Groom of Deep Knowledge Ventures, Vital has already approved two investment decisions.
Groom says both of the projects that have been approved are similar in function to Vital. In Silico Medicine, which develops computer-assisted methods for drug discovery in aging research; and In Silico’s partner firm Pathway Pharmaceuticals, which employs a platform called OncoFinder to select and rate personalized cancer therapies.
(Am I the only one unnerved by the fact that Vital is essentially approving the construction of more of itself?)
“It’s not what you’d call AI at this stage, but that is the long-term goal,” Groome said.
Why use an Algorithm?
Susan Shao, the manager of DKV, told Geektime that the robot’s specialization allows for an accuracy much higher than other learning intelligences, and that its analysis will be the basis of future investment decisions.
“All the investment decisions will be made with the consideration of VITAL’s vote, so it’s role is huge,” Shao said. “The computer itself won’t sit on a chair in the office of directors, but because it’s opinion is one of the most important, we can say that VITAL is participating in board meetings.”
In short, Vital makes less mistakes than humans and it doesn’t let pesky things like emotions get in the way.
Now where have we heard of that before?
Then again, with the speed our world is now working, a creation who can make decisions at a speed that can keep up could be highly useful as well.