It was reported earlier this year that algorithms are being used in a US newsroom to generate basic stories and earthquake reports. Now the march of the algorithm is gathering apace as a Hong Kong venture capital company has appointed an algorithm to its board of directors.
Deep Knowledge Ventures, a company that focuses on drugs for age related diseases, has appointed the algorithm, named ‘Vital’ to vote on whether the company should invest in certain companies or not. ‘Vital’ does this by sifting through huge amounts of data, and basing its decisions on what it finds.
These decisions are made by analysing details such as financial information, clinical trials for particular drugs, company’s intellectual property and previous funding.
Deep Knowledge Venture’s Charles Groome revealed that ‘Vital’ had already made two investment decisions, although it is yet to cast its first vote. The first was to invest in Silico Medicine and its partner firm Pathway Pharmaceuticals. Both these companies develop computer assisted methods for drug discovery in ageing research. Pathway Pharmaceuticals also has a platform called OncoFinder, which selects and rates personalised cancer therapies.
However, many feel that the appointment of ‘Vital’ is nothing but hype. Professor Noel Sharkey, of Sheffield University, told the BBC: “On first sight, it looks like a futuristic idea but on reflection it is really a little bit of publicity hype.” He went onto say that: “A lot of large 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.”