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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Paris Peace Forum: UAE minister says artificial intelligence a 'black box'

AI is challenging existing norms and practices in unforeseen ways, Omar Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, says

A Palestinian initiative designed to help small businesses in the occupied territories was presented at the Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday. Reuters
A Palestinian initiative designed to help small businesses in the occupied territories was presented at the Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday. Reuters

Artificial intelligence is challenging existing norms and practices in unforeseen ways. Cinema’s sci-fi dystopias predict a dysfunctional technology-driven future predict a race to master the technology, but whether countries are fighting over it or collaborating is up for debate.

Omar Al Olama, the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, used an effective metaphor to describe where this “race” is at on the international stage.

“AI is like a black box,” he said. “There are countries that do not care what is in the black box, as long as the answer – or what comes out of it – is positive," he said. Others, like the EU "are not concerned about the answer as long as everyone fits in the black box. And there are countries that don’t care about what the black box is, as long as they have the biggest black box.”

The minister and other experts on the AI panel at the Paris Peace Forum agreed that the major issue at hand is inclusivity, both at the national and international level.

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The need for governments and users to be engaged in the AI debate, they said, entails a high degree of trust between all parties working to develop the technology.

“We need to develop the new tools in an open and collaborative way,” Antoine Bordes, Director of AI Research Science at Facebook.

But understanding the complexities of AI is no straight-forward task.

According to Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, the EU is “ten steps behind” when it comes to understanding this technology, despite it needing to jump on the bandwagon if it wants to have a say on the technology's direction.

While countries like Russia insist that whoever will control AI will rule the world, experts say AI is more likely to emerge as an opportunity to collaboratively tackle new daunting challenges like climate change in a concerted and effective way.