ITU Blog: Preparing for an AI-driven society


May 9, 2017


Preparing for an AI-driven society

Like major transformations before it, Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to transform our lives and to lead us to a better world, while creating even greater impact for business and society.

First Robot 5s Shop Opens in China's Changsha

Photo by Zhong Zhenbin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Already, machines and programs that can sense, learn, reason, and act, are tackling large-scale global challenges in a variety of fields, including science, medicine, education, finance. They are augmenting human capability, and helping us to go exponentially farther and faster in the understanding of our world.

Fueled by improved algorithms, access to growing and massive data sets, ubiquitous network access, near infinite storage capacity and exponential computing power, AI is at the heart of much of today's technical innovation. AI is a new factor of production, driving growth by providing intelligent automation and potential labor augmentation: Unlike traditional automation solutions, AI can help automate complex physical and reasoning tasks that require adaptability and self-learning; enabling workers to transition to more creative and innovative responsibilities.

Preparing for an AI-enabled future

Yet, while there is tremendous interest and momentum globally around AI to fuel economic growth and social progress, there is growing concern about the significant shift of reasoning and decision-making that may soon move from people to machines.

To clear the path for an AI-enabled future, we need to reinforce the role that humans will play. We need to advocate a code of ethics for AI, and ensure dialogue, practical standards and best practices in its development and use.

RELATED: Accelerating the UN's Sustainable Development Goals through AI

We need to encourage smart regulations and oversight of AI, and make sure that the pace of technological change is accompanied by an equally fast regulatory response. We need policies that highlight and encourage the tangible benefits of AI, and the positive impact for every individual.

View video "AI for Good - Augmented Intelligence"

Finally, for AI to hold its promise, it needs to be accessible to everyone equally. Therefore, we need to make sure that the innovative tools, the data, and the technology, are available to everyone, in a democratic way.

Initiatives advancing AI to benefit humanity

That is why new initiatives including both the private and public sectors have recently been created to advance AI to benefit humanity as a whole. For example, the Open AI, the Partnership on AI, and the AI XPRIZE Challenge, are all focusing on a positive human impact of AI by advocating that AI be an extension of individual human capabilities, broadly accessible, and distributed as widely as possible.

RELATED: Time to end the 'AI: good or evil?' debate and act for good (Opinion)

AI is already accelerating progress on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably in such areas as health care, democracy, child protection, and education. Yet, there is a need to better harness new capabilities of AI, ensuring public involvement and debate, beyond that of solely specialists. Governments, academic and research institutions, startups and innovators, engineers and scientists, private and public funding institutions, and indeed every one of us, should consider ourselves stakeholders, and understand how AI can impact our world.

ITU and XPRIZE join forces

The XPRIZE Foundation has witnessed the impact that AI projects have had on bringing together multidisciplinary approaches and domain experts, engineers, public authorities, and academics entities in partnerships to solve important challenges, such as: learning (for example, helping children to learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills in three months) and agriculture (for example, using IoT sensors, satellite imagery and climate data to help manage crops and productivity).

The recently launched IBM Watson AI XPRIZE has gathered 160 teams across 23 countries to tackle the world's greatest challenges by using AI applications to address all 17 SDGs.

And now, ITU and the XPRIZE Foundation are joining forces to bring the conversation to a global level.

The upcoming AI for Good Global Summit (7 to 9 June in Geneva, Switzerland), is the first global multi-stakeholder gathering to create a platform for AI collaboration, both internationally, and across disciplines. The Summit participants will discuss how AI can be a force of positive change; promoting democracy, eradicating poverty, enabling and fueling innovation equally for all, and adopting guiding principles that will help set a basis for a human and machine future.

Amir Banifatemi


Mr. Banifatemi is the Prize Lead of the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. Prior to joining XPRIZE, he began his career at the European Space Agency and then held executive positions at Airbus, AP-HP and the European Commission division for information society and media. He managed two venture capital funds and contributed to the formation of more than 10 startups with emphasis on Predictive Technologies, IoT, and Healthcare.

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