Columnists

The two facets of artificial intelligence

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The latest version of a robot called Sophia being tested at Hanson Robotics in this photo taken on May 10, 2023. PHOTO | AFP

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the OpenAI offices in Silicon Valley, California, USA, along with a team of tech ambassadors.

Our tour was part of a three-day seminar on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on geopolitics, focusing on cyber and tech advancements.

During the seminar, experts from various disciplines expressed both optimism and concern about the rapid pace at which AI innovations are emerging.

While many experts currently believe that the benefits of AI outweigh its potential drawbacks, there is a growing consensus that we should reevaluate its future and how best to regulate it as technology continues to advance.

This sentiment was particularly evident when Sam Altman, founder and CEO of OpenAI, expressed his concerns about the potential risks associated with AI during a recent Congressional hearing.

While legitimate concerns exist regarding the future impact of AI, I believe it is premature to draw definitive conclusions about its effects or advocate for abandoning the technology altogether.

As a member of the team that developed the OECD Principles for AI, we foresaw these concerns and developed guidelines to promote innovation, trustworthiness, and respect for human rights and democratic values.

We have already witnessed the tremendous potential of AI to bring about numerous benefits and advancements in various domains and sectors.

Its emergence has sparked a global debate, with proponents advocating for its potential to revolutionise industries and enhance human lives, while sceptics express concerns about unintended consequences.

Altman's call for AI regulation is justified, as we are yet to fully understand its potential positive and negative impacts on different sectors.

However, we must ask ourselves how we can regulate AI without stifling innovation and how we can harness its power to foster innovation and transform society.

It is important to note that no one opposes regulating this emerging technology if it can be done effectively.

In the meantime, we should recognise how AI is already changing the world in areas such as financial inclusion, healthcare advancements, agricultural productivity, educational reform, and language preservation.

Undoubtedly, AI has unleashed a wave of positive outcomes that demand our attention and support.

In developing countries, AI has proven to be a game-changer in the financial sector, promoting greater inclusivity and empowerment.

By leveraging AI-powered solutions, underserved populations now have access to financial services that were previously inaccessible.

This has not only spurred economic growth but also empowered individuals and uplifted communities.

AI has transcended human limitations, leading to groundbreaking advancements in healthcare.

For instance, in resource-poor countries where doctor-patient ratios are alarmingly high, AI has bridged the gap.

Through innovative approaches such as telemedicine and data analysis, technicians in the field can collect vital medical information, transmit it to doctors worldwide, and receive instant diagnoses and treatment plans.

This not only saves lives but also allows doctors to learn from global expertise, ultimately improving health outcomes for millions.

The impact of AI on agriculture has been unparalleled.

By deploying sophisticated algorithms and data analytics, farmers can optimise crop yields, monitor pesticide levels, and enhance overall productivity.

This agricultural revolution has not only boosted incomes but has also ensured food security for countless communities.

AI has become an indispensable tool for sustainable farming and empowering farmers, helping them make informed decisions and maximise their resources.

The education sector stands to benefit immensely from AI as a cornerstone of societal progress.

By leveraging personalised learning algorithms, AI can tailor educational content to individual needs, promoting deeper understanding and retention of knowledge.

Additionally, AI can help overcome language barriers, preserving indigenous languages and empowering learners to embrace their cultural heritage.

With AI as a catalyst, education can transcend traditional boundaries, paving the way for a more enlightened and interconnected world.

As with any transformative technology, sceptics and resistance will always exist.

However, history has shown that embracing innovation brings about positive change. It is crucial to acknowledge and address concerns surrounding AI.