UK pavilion brings together mind and machine at Expo 2020 Dubai

“You just remember one fucking thing Great Britain! When I deliver the world’s greatest scientific discovery, when I apply myself to the greatest theory of physics ever developed, when I show the world what this can do, how it can create huge leaps in every aspect of science… I’m Israeli, and not British”😆😂🤣

‘Artifical Intelligence is still another 300 years off… Read some fucking books!”

UK pavilion brings together mind and machine at Expo 2020 Dubai

Richard Thompson

When you think of testbed locations for artificial intelligence (AI), you might think of the US, Japan or China, but the UK also deserves a spot on that list.

A briefing note by McKinsey Global Institute highlights that AI could add an incremental 16 per cent in economic gains to global output by 2030. The gains could be as high as 22 per cent in the UK, as it is regarded as more ‘AI-ready’ compared to the global average. Indeed, the 2019 Government AI Readiness Index compiled by Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) saw the UK come second only to Singapore.

Highlighting a drive for AI and space exploration, the UK’s pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai will showcase innovations in culture, education, tourism and business.

“Every time the UK takes part in a World Expo, we try to be different,” says Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner general and project director for the UK pavilion. “We have a strong creative and cultural sector within the UK, so we start with an open mind when we put out the design brief and end up with never-before-seen, thought-provoking ideas.”

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has chosen branding agency Avantgarde and British designer Es Devlin’s design for a ‘Poem Pavilion’ to represent innovation at the expo. The UK’s theme for Expo 2020 is ‘Innovating for a Shared Future’.

Devlin’s design for the UK pavilion, which will be located in the Opportunity District, features a 20-metre-high structure consisting of rows of slats protruding outwards to form a conical shape. The facade of the structure will feature an LED display of poetry created through AI, with words contributed both by visitors to the expo and by a machine-learning system.

The design concept is inspired by one of the final projects of late English physicist Stephen Hawking, ‘Breakthrough Message’. The project saw Hawking and his colleagues launch a global competition in 2015, inviting people worldwide to consider what message the human race should communicate to alien civilisations in space.

“The pavilion is just one aspect of our participation,” says Faulkner. “We plan to pose a series of questions, framing our participation around these. We will be asking, in the future, what will we wear? What will we eat? How will we create? How will we travel? How will we learn? Through these questions and conversations with the youth, government and thought-leaders, we want to look at what the future looks like for the planet.”

Construction progress

Construction of the pavilion is being overseen by marketing firm Pico Group, with UK construction firm McLaren building the 3,417 square-metre, two-storey structure. Foundation works for the structure have been started, and Faulkner says that the UK pavilion is on track for delivery in May or June 2020. The news agency MEED estimates the cost of construction to be $18m.

The building will feature cross-laminated timber on a concrete structure. Much of the pavilion will be manufactured and assembled off-site.

The UK pavilion will not remain standing at the expo site following the conclusion of the event. Faulkner explains that a decommissioning strategy for the physical structure is being planned.

DIT has tasked UK-based independent environmental consultancy Resource Futures to lead a team to explore decommissioning possibilities.

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