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Artificial Intelligence Internet Governance Technology

The Future Internet I Want for Me, Myself and AI

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to bring immense opportunities, but it also poses challenges.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is dominating the R&D agenda of the leading Internet industry. The Silicon Valley and other startup hubs are buzzing about artificial intelligence and the issue has come at the top of policymakers’ agenda including the G20, the ITU, and the OECD, where leaders gathered this week in Paris.

AI isn’t new, but its recent acceleration can be explained by its convergence with big data and IoT, and the endless applications and services it allows. In the market, this translates into investments across all industries as stakeholders try to understand the potential of AI for their own businesses. For instance, at the beginning of the year, Ford motors announced a plan to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup that is focused on developing autonomous vehicle technology. It’s an indication that AI is a hot topic beyond the traditional ICT sector.

How our community feels about AI

There is a growing expectation on the part of many stakeholders that AI and machine learning will fundamentally reshape the future of the Internet and society around it.

This is one of the trends we’ve observed in our own project about the Internet’s Future, where AI, together with five other areas, have been identified as key “Drivers” of change in the coming 5 to 10 years. There is a sense that “we may be experiencing a new [technology] Renaissance.” Indeed, in 10 years’ time AI technologies may dominate all aspects of our day to day lives from driving to banking or even working.

Yet, the uncertainties raised by our community about this technology in the context of the Internet are extensive. These include the potential loss of human agency and decision-making, lack of transparency in how algorithms make decisions, discrimination, the pace of technological change outstripping governance and policy, and ethical considerations.

A number of participants raised concerns related to the impact on industry and employment – and therefore society – noting the consequences of automation-led change across industries and business practices, and the possible increase in inequalities and societal disruption.

Will AI replace human labour?

The discussions at the OECD this week revolved around a specific issue: Will AI replace human labour?

What do humans do at work? They perceive their environment, learn, use language to communicate, plan and navigate tasks – all of them abilities that can be imitated to varying degrees by machines.

Looking back at the history of AI, the concept was born when a group of visionary researchers, including Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy, gathered in the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College to kick off the project to create computers programmed to act as humans. The risk – or opportunity – was embedded, although perhaps not consciously, in the group’s objectives: replicating human intelligence.

So, is it realistic that we could all be replaced by robots and algorithms?

It depends who you ask and how you analyse the challenge. So far the estimated impact on job displacement has had a broad range: from 9-47%. From the OECD to the University of Oxford, the measuring techniques are quite different. The numbers are alarming and should be taken seriously, but they also do not tell the whole story.

Shaping a future we can look forward to

Fears are natural, but should be put into perspective. Lets think about how AI could improve human performance and lives.

Deep learning has made tremendous progress in reasoning to the benefit of humans. See the example of the Go Game guru, Lee Sedol, who was defeated by “Alpha Go.” He explained that beyond personal disappointment, he also experienced a positive feedback loop. He learned from AI Go patterns and techniques and raised his own performance level. AI performing at the level, or higher, than humans is not necessarily a threat – it can augment intelligence and support our own development.

AI can have also have a positive effect on humanity, notably by drawing inferences from enormous sets of data. For example, in the pharmaceutical field, the combination of AI and big data expands the industry’s ability to solve new scales of problems, which in turn enables the acceleration of research and can bring major breakthroughs in drug discoveries and disease diagnoses.

Energy efficient homes, personal assistants that make our lives easier, etc. There are many other reasons and fields where hope – and even excitement – is possible.

But what we do know is that Artificial Intelligence is already a topic that has triggered hopes and concerns. Going forward it is important that we broaden and demystify the debate in order to balance the headlines with insights and facts. To this end, ISOC recently published a Policy Paper on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, introducing the fundamentals of the technology at hand and some of the key challenges it presents.

As one of our guiding principles from this paper clearly states: “The public’s ability to understand AI-enabled services, and how they work, is key to ensuring trust in the technology.”

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Artificial Intelligence Building Trust Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Technology

Will Artificial Intelligence Change The World For the Better? Or Worse? Read our new policy paper

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a concept that has a long standing tradition in the realm of science-fiction, popularized by Hollywood movies and iconic writers such as Isaac Asimov. However, AI has also received increased attention in recent years following news of progress in the field and the prospect of new, tangible, innovation such as self-driving cars. The Internet has played an important role in these developments, particularly as the platform for AI enabled services  – some with significant implications for the continued development of a trusted Internet. 

The Internet Society is pleased to release a policy paper on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help navigate some of the opportunities and challenges the technology presents, and to support an informed debate by de-mystifying some of its fundamental concepts. A key aspect is understanding machine learning, a specific AI technique that has been driving the development of new algorithms to substitute or support human decision-making – some of which are already deployed online. Smart assistants, such as “Siri” or “Alexa”, use machine learning to interpret voice commands, email servers use the technique to better filter out junk mail, and some e-commerce websites use it to personalize the web experience of their users.

AI is taking on an increasingly important role in international discussions on the Internet. Recently in Dusseldorf, as part of the German G20 presidency, ministers responsible for their countries’ digitalization agendas met with other stakeholders to discuss policies for the digital future. The impact of AI driven applications, alongside strategies for how to capitalize on the Internet’s vast opportunities for productivity and economic growth, were centre stage.

The ability of machines to exhibit advanced cognitive skills to process natural language, to learn, to plan or to perceive, makes it possible for new tasks to be performed by intelligent systems, sometimes with more success than humans. By using AI-driven automation in existing industries, alongside using AI technologies in new emerging areas, artificial intelligence could vastly boost productivity and economic growth.

AI is a technology that could change the world for the better. It can make medical procedures safer, increase productivity and boost the economy, or be used in applications to improve the quality of life for the disabled. But, AI is also a technology that comes with challenges, such as accountability, security, technological mistrust, and the displacement of human workers.

The private sector has acknowledged these opportunities, and investments in AI have grown over the past several years. Major corporations have invested in developing AI technologies. Forrester predicts that investments in AI are set to grow by 300% in 2017 alone. At the same time, workers fear that their livelihood could be replaced by machines. There are serious questions as to who will benefit and who may lose.

However, beyond the economic impact that AI may have, AI will also affect how people perceive and use the Internet. It has the potential to intensify users’ concerns surrounding the Internet, such as questions of accountability, openness, safety, security, and its socio-economic impacts.

With the potential to dramatically impact the economy and society in the near future, AI has moved to the forefront of many policy debates around the world. These debates range from the governance of AI, such as ensuring accountability of algorithmic decisions, to mitigating the impact of AI on employment. There are clear challenges for AI that must be addressed now to support the technology’s positive future.

It is important to note that the anticipated impact of AI is largely based on predictions and estimates. But regardless of the level of impact, AI will affect the world’s economies, citizens, and the Internet.

It is up to all stakeholders today, be they policymakers, businesses, technical, or civil society, to ensure that AI’s impact is a positive one by proactively tackling the challenges, while ensuring the opportunities remain available.

Please read and share our new policy paper: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.