Give us a one-minute pitch of where you are now:

Ethics Net is about teaching and creating a dataset of social behaviours. A data set in machine learning terms is sort of set of examples of how we teach machines about the world. We give them things, a good thing to optimise towards and a bad thing to optimise towards Generally speaking, if we have the right data set in place machines can begin to figure it out. Actually we don’t have very good data sets on what pro-social behaviour looks like. Most of us can recognise it from time to time but putting it into words is quite difficult. Or at least in terms of what machines can learn from and so that’s why we’re so determined to create this dataset.

Data sets are very NB because often many of the algorithms which have revolutionised the world in the past number of years in terms of machine intelligence. A lot of those algorithms were created back in the ‘80’s and it’s only recently now that they’ve become deployable and the real difference is that new data systems have been able to train these algorithms.

If you think about it, even a very intelligent human being with an IQ of 150 if they spent their whole life in one room they’re not going to be very effective so machines are the very same. So as soon as data becomes available to train these machines good data then we start to see remarkable increases in the field.

So we’re hoping that this ethics-led data set will begin to make computers a little more aligned to our values and essentially start to socialise machines to participate more effectively in our society.

How is the last year, what worked well or not as quickly as you’d like?

I tend to get dragged into different projects some of them more public than others and sometimes I get strange calls out of the blue and it can be very distracting. That is why I’m trying to manage my time and energies a little more. I’m training for a little more focus and more time for reflection and more writing and less advisory and project-based work because it can take so much or my time and attention and I’ve less time to think objectively and work on Ethics Net.

What worked well?

I greatly enjoy travelling the world and sharing ideas. Not just imparting them but also picking up from people and having conversations with people, getting to know people from all different backgrounds, that’s something I take immense pleasure in and it’s also a wonderful way to help proliferate certain ideas or projects that I can champion. So I’m glad I’m able to do that and to help some folks get a little more exposure.

Your plans for the future:

I’ll be continuing to try and get Ethics Net off the ground and we’re running a competition to solicit ideas on how best to construct this data set for machine ethics. How best to teach machines about human ethics and we’re also at the stage now where we’re collating different ideas and building out and developing a game plan shall we say with regard building out the future of the project so that we know how to allocate our resources in terms of development for the end of the year and into 2019.

What will you be talking about at the Get Up and Go Inspiring Contribution conference?

I’ll be discussing why machine intelligence has arrived in recent years, what are the factors creating this revolution and the ingredients, which are giving it so much power.

I’m going to talk about machine intelligence and how to make the most of it, how to bring it into your business into your personal life, into your social sphere – all the ways we can rely on machine intelligence like a personal butler to organise our lives in so many different ways.  Then I’ll also give a little discussion on how we can make machines that respect our preferences and act in a way that are ethical and equitable and fair and how we can use machines to help improve society instead of potentially eroding some of our precious institutions.

So it’s blend of different elements, I believe there ‘s a lot to take away from it.

What inspired you to attend this event?

I had the immense pleasure to happen to bump into Eileen Forrestal the founder of Get Up and Go a couple of years ago at a conference in Belfast. We had a really good conversation, I liked her style, what she was creating with the diaries and everything and her determination to create positive change in people’s lives and to take people on a different path they otherwise may not have deemed possible. I deeply respect that and so it was a pleasure to be invited to Get Up and go and go over to Sligo. It’s an amazing honour and I’m very much looking forward to the event.

Which influencers and websites do you follow?

I like to pay attention to Asem Ishares Exponential View, that’s a really nice digest of different areas in the space of tech but also a little bit of social sphere things as well. It’s a nice taster of all the most interesting things going on in the world, or some of them at least.

How can people find out more about what you’re working on?

They can read a few of my essays, papers and things at

I also have Ethics the non-profit that I co-founded to teach machines about human values, they can go there learn and maybe share some ideas on our forum, I’d greatly appreciate that.


‘Nell Watson is one of the thought leading speakers at the Get Up and Go ‘Inspiring Contribution – Thinking Outside The Box’ Conference on 21st, 22nd September at the Clayton Hotel Sligo.  ‘Be inspired to live an extraordinary life, right here, right now’. Further details and tickets at



I appreciate your curiosity.

My career in technology and entrepreneurship stems from a great early-age foundation I got from my engineer dad. Although life went somewhat off the rails after his death when I was 11, I got back on track later; by the age of 24, I was already teaching post-grad computer science. Soon afterwards I ventured into entrepreneurship, in various projects and ventures, in pursuit of lasting beneficial impact in the world.

In the process of maturing as an entrepreneur I have drifted into being a sought-after public speaker, facilitating a great many workshops, and delivering digestible yet informative lectures on emerging technologies to diverse audiences internationally.

As a keynote speaker, I have presented for Ericsson, Credit Suisse, MIT and many others. I have taught and presented in India, Morocco, Chile, Brazil, the Nordics, the United Kingdom and across America.

I have built a track record as being insightful, imaginative, and broadly-aware, as well as an effective communicator and mentor, who can make complex subjects able to be understood by all. My work is regularly covered by Wired, BBC, The Guardian, Forbes, Vice, and others.

I have a core belief that technology can (and should) be leveraged to free us from the saddest aspects of the human condition. It is this same wellspring of passion that I seek to ignite within others.

Hopefully some of my writing can help to affect this in you.

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