Artificial intelligence carries a huge upside. But potential harms need to be managed
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to contribute to the resolution of some of the most intractable problems of our time. Examples include climate change and pandemics. But they have the capacity to cause harm too. And they can, if not used properly, perpetuate historical injustices and structural inequalities.
To mitigate against their potential harms, the world needs frameworks for the governance of data that are economically enabling and that preserve rights.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning operate on the basis of massive datasets from which algorithms are programmed to discern patterns. These patterns can be used to infer new insights and also predict behaviour and outcomes. Increasingly, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to substitute human decisions with automated decision making on behalf of humans. This is often in areas which can have a significant impact on peoples’ lives. Take access to loans or even access into a country.
Yet it all happens in a black box that even the designer the algorithm may not have access to, so deciding what goes into the box is important.
The biggest datasets and algorithmic activity are generated by the global social networks that surveil our every action online. These datasets can be used to anticipate and mould our needs and desires.
Big technology firms, multilateral agencies and development banks have made much of the potential of artificial intelligence to advance economic growth and national development. And they’re increasingly being used in social and economic applications as well as public decision-making, planning and resource allocation. These include guiding court judgments, selecting job applicants and assigning scholars to schooling systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the enormous value of public data and the potential value of combining public and private data to deal with public health and disaster crises.
Yet, there is growing concern about the uneven distribution of both the opportunities and harms associated with artificial intelligence.