‘Government needs to be proactive on A.I.’

With artificial intelligence (AI) going to be pervasive in society in the near future, a technology executive and practitioner urged the government to adopt a proactive attitude on the popular trend.

“Governments must be proactive in handling the impact of AI. Don’t wait before it is too late,” said Colin Christie, president and trustee of the Analytics Association of the Philippines and executive director of the Global Chamber Manila, in a recent interview on the sidelines of a news conference the chamber held in Makati City.

“Face it [AI] before the downsides are right there in your doorstep. We should be asking these questions now from these technology companies, such as the training background, data used, algorithms, controls, safeguards and other important details,” Christie added. “We have to answer the questions, such as how do we protect ourselves in case something goes wrong. Don’t wait until that happens.”

He said people need to develop a thorough understanding about the potential of robotic devices because they will be a force to reckon with in the economy, health, business and other major sectors in the near future.

Moreover, he said government should also engage the people in discussing the merits of the technology. Having generated both positive and negative reactions from the major sectors, a technology practitioner recently said the ongoing debate on AI is a positive sign people could now have a chance to weigh the pros and cons of the technology.

He said the debate between Tesla Founder Elon Musk, who has reservations to AI, and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, who favors it, could boost the interest on the topic.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and physicist Stephen Hawking have also expressed different views on the issue. Bezos welcomes it, while Hawking has reservations.

Hawking, one of the United Kingdom’s most illustrious scientists, even warned in 2014 that AI will pose a threat to mankind’s existence.

“You know that digital technology is exponential and does not grow linear step by step. Two years or five years from now it would be quite different,” he said.

Prof. Reynaldo C. Lugtu Jr. of the Asian Institute of Management said in separate interview on the same event that it is a joy to listen to the debate between Musk and Zuckerberg. He added Musk expressed his concern about the apocalyptic nature of AI, especially if it falls on the bad elements. On the other hand, the Facebook founder expressed optimism on AI.

Nevertheless, Lugtu said automation is not necessarily all bad. Apart from making things faster, more accurate and more efficient, automation through AI can also create new categories of jobs.

Lugtu recently pointed out that the transition phase to AI should be discussed because it will create a lot of challenges.

He said the government should craft the policies “to ease the transition, such as upskilling to higher-value work in programming and analytics, or developing new areas of competencies in engineering and health care.”

With technology achieving quantum changes, Christie said the future of AI will possibly be a thousand times faster the current version.

Christie said there are benefits from AI, especially on support systems. He cited IBM’s affiliate, Watson, which is helping doctors in researches on the latest diseases through medical journals, literatures and articles. He said a doctor can ask the help of IBM Watson on the new developments in the medical world through the new literatures available.

Nevertheless,  Christie said people have the right to ask the details on the doctor’s the AI’s background, such as training and orientation. “If you enter a clinic, you will see the doctor’s credentials. It is transparent. For AI, you need to ask how he was it trained, algorithms that were used, among others,” Christie explained.

Global Chamber will organize a one-day forum dubbed “Forum on Cyber Security and the Internet of Things” on January 31 at a college in Taguig City.

“We hope to use this occasion to provide Filipinos with a better grasp of recent developments in the automated age as well as the technologies and best practices to help everyone protect themselves and their systems from attack and unauthorized access,” Christie said.

Marc Goodman, global strategist and consultant who has worked with the US government, Nato, Interpol, and the UN Counterterrorism Task Force, will be the main resource speaker of the conference.


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