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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

The UAE is preparing its citizens to thrive in a future dominated by artificial intelligence

This country's pragmatic approach to the technological revolution is a model for others

Last year, Dubai Police recruited the world's first robocop. Anna Nielsen / The National
Last year, Dubai Police recruited the world's first robocop. Anna Nielsen / The National

Artificial intelligence, once confined to dystopian science fiction, is now shaping our lives in small and large ways. Many of us already possess smart devices that can interact with us and perform intelligent tasks. On January 8, a hospital in Dubai carried out orthopaedic surgery with robotic assistance. Dubai Police, which is working towards applying artificial intelligence techniques to solving and preventing crimes, projects that by 2030, at least 25 per cent of its force will be composed of robots. Last year, it became the first police force in the world to introduce a crime-fighting Robocop, speaking six languages and designed to recognise facial expressions. Very soon, driverless cars will become a reality.

The excitement around artificial intelligence, at the heart of debates at Davos 2018 this week, is accompanied by profound anxiety over its implications for humans. Will our jobs become redundant? Will we be overtaken by the machines? Fortunately, the UAE has a clear vision of how to use this technology to benefit humans. Not only is this country leading the way in adopting artificial intelligence but it is also training its citizens in the subject so that when artificial intelligence becomes a fully fledged reality, they are not left behind. The UAE has developed a comprehensive programme in partnership with Oracle and the first batch of students– 500 Emirati men and women – will soon begin their apprenticeship in artificial intelligence. The focus of the training, as Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said at the programme’s recent launch in Dubai, will be “utilising emerging technologies in public services to enhance day-to-day experiences of UAE citizens and increase the efficiency of the Government and private sectors”.

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Opinion: Artificial intelligence will enhance us, not replace us

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The United Nations estimates that nearly two-thirds of today’s primary school pupils will work in careers that do not yet exist. The UAE’s emphasis on preparing its citizens for the future can only make this country competitive in a world that will very soon come to be overwhelmingly reliant on artificial intelligence. That could have a greater social impact than the industrial revolutions of the past, which generated tremendous upheavals in their wake. The manner in which the UAE is preparing for that future – with a minister devoted exclusively to AI and now a programme to teach its citizens the right skills to thrive in a transformed world – is a model for others.

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