Experts speaking at an interactive session on artificial intelligence at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting agreed that technology and access to technology must be democratized. They said it is essential to provide people with the relevant knowledge and skills to lay the groundwork for a more egalitarian and sustainable era of cognitive computing.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at IBM Corporation, USA, which has taken the lead in cognitive computing within the information technology industry and has developed the advanced AI platform Watson, said transparency is imperative to develop trust in cognitive computing. Soon, everyone will be working with AI technologies and people will want to know how they were designed, by which experts and using which data. “Humans need to remain in control of it,” Rometty said, adding that it is imperative that technology be created for, by and with the people.
Panellists agreed that ethical and legal concerns must be factored in at the start of the design process, underlining the importance for customers, lawyers, ethicists, scientists and technology developers to work together.
Highlighting the need to democratize technology design, Joichi Ito, Director, Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, said it is worrying that the demographic in Silicon Valley consists of mostly white men. He gave the example of a face-recognition technology that failed to recognize dark faces, reflecting a lack of diversity among the engineers who designed it. “AI is still a bespoke art; the customer cannot imagine the tool yet,” he said, suggesting that stakeholders, including the customer, the lawyer and the ethicist, have a say in technology creation.
Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft Corporation, USA, said his organization is focusing on how to make technology broadly accessible. He cited the success of Microsoft’s Skype Translator, the speech-to-speech translation application available for free download. Speaking of the challenges that lie ahead, Nadella said many questions remain to be answered, such as how to fix responsibility for decisions made by algorithms that humans have not written, and whether the AI surplus that will be created will be shared equitably.
“Overall world GDP growth is not stellar,” Nadella said. “We actually need AI.” To ensure that AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution help solve the pressing problems of today, such as climate change, education and drug discovery, and to ensure inclusive growth, it is important to help train people for the jobs of the future, he said. In a world with a surfeit of AI, human values such as common sense and empathy will be scarce. These are the values that the citizens of tomorrow would need most to make humanity the very best it can be, he added.
Ron Gutman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HealthTap, an online application that brings patients and doctors together, said AI will create new jobs that do not exist today. For instance, sensors and wearables provide so much data that it will become possible to move from reactive to proactive medicine, creating a new ecosystem of jobs.
Rometty highlighted her idea of “new collar” jobs, which pivots on the belief that the skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs are not just the high-end, high-technology skills that can only be acquired through a traditional college degree. Many jobs, such as those of cloud computing technicians and service delivery specialists, will need skills often obtained through vocational training or in non-traditional ways. She emphasized at the same time that everybody will need retraining.
Ito agreed, noting that everybody will have to acquire an understanding of AI, and education systems will have to be made more dynamic as technology will change rapidly.