Navigating the maelstrom (looking for lighthouses)

13:30 – 14:00

Speaker: John Sheridan (The National Archives)

Abstract: We are navigating a maelstrom. The pace of advancement in AI, in particular of large language models, is bewildering, exhilarating, and terrifying. The scale of the advances made over just the last few months seems immense. No-one seems to know the limits of what is now possible, or might be.

For digital archives, this is a moment of enormous opportunity. There are also risks and threats. To quote Clausewitz, “A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.” (1). So, where are the lighthouses to try to navigate by, or, if there are none apparent, where at least might they be built? This presentation will suggest there are some beacons of light to guide us. Borrowing ideas from maths, computing, law and economics, it will posit what they are and what they mean for archivists. From there it will extrapolate some strategic interventions that digital archives can make to take advantage of the enormous opportunities ahead of us in the brave new world of artificial intelligence.

John Sheridan is the Digital Director at The National Archives.

1 – Carl von Clausewitz, Vom Kriege, Book 1, Chapter 3.