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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 May 2018

Governments must control the rise of artificial intelligence, experts say 

Summit sounds a warning on the future of AI and the need for regulation to keep pace in an every changing world

Technology that was once considered science fiction is edging closer to reality. How that is regulated is an important conundrum for governments and policy makers. Getty Images
Technology that was once considered science fiction is edging closer to reality. How that is regulated is an important conundrum for governments and policy makers. Getty Images

The dawn of the artificial intelligence age is upon us and the speed of technological development threatens to leave regulatory control in its wake.

Those concerns were one of the key themes to emerge from the World Government Summit staged in Dubai this week.

From agriculture and transport to healthcare and education, technology that was once considered science fiction is edging closer to reality.

How that is managed in the decades to come is providing an imminent conundrum for governments and policy makers, and proved a common topic of discussion in forums during the three-day summit.

“I believe we are right at the start of this revolution happening right now and I imagine more natural ways of communication so it will become seamless,” said Carol Riley, president of Drive – AI.

“This means non-verbal communication and machines start to understand what we are thinking.”

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Mind reading robots may sound like a terrifying prospect, but neuroscientists working in the field claim science has the potential to make life easier, and safer – as long as the technology is controlled and regulated correctly.

Speech and face recognition to access mobile devices and bank accounts has become routine, whilst the rise of home assistants like Amazon Echo’s Alexa device and Google Home are early AI applications that are now commonplace.

How this technology develops was a topic of discussion at the WGS involving the father of AI, Juergen Schmidhuber, chief scientist at NNaisense and co-director at Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research.

He has been working since the age of 15 to create a self-improved AI, smarter than himself.

“The next wave is going to be machines getting smart with built-in sensors,” he said.

“They can do all kinds of things that only people can do, so ‘show-and-tell’ robotics will come next when you teach a robot like a child by just showing it how it’s done.”

The rise of ‘fake news’ is a problem blamed on increasing automation and computer generated content with the potential to split society.

Predictions based on research and trend analysis by Gartner forecast that by 2020, an AI-driven creation of a ‘counterfeit reality’, or fake content, will outpace AI’s ability to detect it, fomenting digital distrust.

Most of this fake reality will be delivered to us via platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube, right to our smartphones.

Big data has been the foundation of new development for decades, with tech firms like Google using that information to monitor human trends and make our online experience more symbiotic.

In education, teachers are being given new tools to get the best out of their students.

Google Classroom is offering a universal online method of creating, distributing and grading assignments, whilst online tutorials help parents and schools learn how they can teach children to protect themselves online.

Global hunger is increasing after a decade of decline, as the planet’s population continues to swell providing new challenges to feed the poorest nations.

Alternatives to meat such as insect protein produced on an industrial scale were discussed as a healthier, cheaper and greener source of food that could be seen in most supermarkets in the near future.

Transport was another popular topic, as Dubai aims to switch 25 per cent of all vehicles to autonomous by 2030.

Technology has been described as ‘unstoppable’ by Sebastian Thrun, a German innovator and chief executive of Kitty Hawk Corporation, which aims to develop a flying car.

“It’s a very exciting time,” he said.

“We might eventually be able to upload the human brain onto a machine and in that sense, have it enter immortality.”

In healthcare, a pervasive diagnostics environment where people would receive medical exams while driving, sleeping or showering, could help offer an earlier diagnosis of killer disease like cancer, improving survival rates.