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Company Brings AI Member onto Board of Directors

Company Brings AI Member onto Board of Directors

Hearing that a company in China has brought Artificial Intelligence, or AI, onto their board of directors is likely to bring to mind images of people sat around a table discussing business with a robot, or at the very least, a computer.

We’re not quite there yet, but for the first time (in reality, at least) a piece of AI software has indeed made it onto the board of directors – or rather, an algorithm has. An algorithm is a computer formula used in making calculations or solving problems, and in this case, is being used to help the firm in question choose their investments.

The software, which has been called VITAL – Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life-sciences – was developed by Aging Analytics UK, a company that specialises in research for biotechnology and regenerative medicine, and has been licensed for use by Deep Knowledge Ventures (DKV), which is the company responsible for putting VITAL on its board.

DKV is a venture capital firm, which means that it invests in companies and projects that are starting up, so holds an element of risk in the investment. The company has a focus on biotechnology – using biological processes in technology – and so invests in science companies specialising in this area.

VITAL is thought to be able to weed out which companies would be a better investment by analysing data and trends that would not be immediately obvious to a human person.

It isn’t like VITAL sits at the meeting table with the rest of the board offering its opinion. The algorithm makes analytical reviews of prospective investments which are then discussed by the human members of the board in the meetings.

“We say that VITAL has been acknowledged as an equal member of the board of directors, because its opinion – actually, the analysis – will be considered as probably the most important one,” explained Dmitry Kaminskiy, a senior partner at DKV.

Kaminskiy said that while people tend to be subjective and emotional, machines work on logic but are unable to make the truly brilliant intuitive decisions. “The intuition of the human investors together with machine’s logic will give a perfect collaborative team,” he declared.

So far, DKV has invested in two companies with the help of VITAL: In Silico Medicine in Maryland in the US, and its partner company Pathway Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Hong Kong and uses a system called OncoFinder that helps to rate and select personalised cancer treatments and therapies.

In Silico Medicine’s Chief Executive Alex Zhavoronkov finds it impressive that DKV has been so accepting of VITAL so early on, and treating the software as if it were a human person. “I think this is the way to go for any team aspiring to do something great in machine intelligence,” he explained.

So, there you have it. Although VITAL is not quite an AI robot sitting in on a meeting, the algorithm is certainly yet another step towards achieving that.


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