Nuno Sebastiao and Stephen Hawking Share the Stage at Web Summit 2017


What does a Silicon Valley CEO and a “Theory of Everything” physics legend have in common? They both shared the stage at Web Summit, and they both sounded the need for an AI Code of Ethics as humans begin to weave artificial intelligence into the fabric of our lives.

Opening night

Web Summit brought a crowd of 60,000 to Lisbon for one of the world’s largest tech conferences. Speakers for the first night of the four-day event included the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, the European Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, and the physicist, Stephen Hawking.

But before all of those speakers, there was our very own Nuno Sebastiao, CEO of Feedzai, who spoke about his roots at the European Space Agency, drawing a connecting between what it takes to send rockets into orbit, and what it takes to fight financial crime with AI at some of the world’s largest companies.

Sebastiao said: “Of course with exploration also comes risks, and tremendous responsibility. AI is an incredible tool, and while it’s already having huge impacts in every industry, it’s only in the early days of development. We are the ones responsible for understanding the checks and balances needed in order to eliminate biases in AI decision-making.”

Stephen Hawking, who was there at Feedzai’s invitation, followed Nuno with an address that explored some of the unlimited possibilities of artificial intelligence – both good and bad.

Hawking said: “Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one, industrialization. We will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst.”

Hawking’s conclusion: “We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be.”

In pursuit of ethics in AI

By emphasizing the need for strong ethics in AI, Sebastiao and Hawking were echoing a theme that our CSO, Pedro Bizarro, brought up the previous week at Money20/20. Bizarro has developed an AI Code of Ethics that our data scientists follow as they develop machine learning systems for some of the world’s largest organizations.

The crowd of visionaries calling for AI ethics is growing. These include the Oxford philosopher and Computer Science professor Paula Boddington, and the Google DeepMind Ethics & Society.

To view Bizarro’s Code of Ethics, and to read more about the development of ethical AI, read our just-published ebook: “What’s Next for Machine Learning: Ethics and Explainability in AI for Fraud.”

Closing day

On the final day of the event, Kara Swisher interviewed Sebastiao and former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino about “pushing boundaries.” But first, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli delivered a live message from the International Space Station!


Stephen Hawking appeared at the invitation of Feedzai

The conference, this year in Lisbon, is one of the world’s largest

Recode’s Kara Swisher interviewed European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

The UN Secretary General António Guterres

20,000 poured into the arena for Web Summit’s opening ceremony

António Costa, Prime Minister, Government of Portugal

Sebastiao led a “Growth Summit” panel for entrepreneurs

Al Gore took the stage to represent Generation Investment

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