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Artificial Intelligence: Devastation or Salvation?

How a shift in our understanding of value and data is key to harnessing AI for the betterment of the world

Photo by The Roaming Platypus on Unsplash

Augmenting rationality

Before we dig into these issues, it’s important to consider what AI really does and understand what its current limitations are. At its simplest, AI is about optimization. It helps humans to better understand how to perform certain tasks and can also be used to build systems that perform jobs that are difficult or arduous for humans. Cliff van der Linden, co-founder and Chief Scientist at Delphia, a company that enables individuals to derive economic value from their data, links this optimization to the concept of augmented rationality.

Promise or peril? What AI can and cannot do

Alongside this optimism, there is also a great deal of fear around AI and the damage it could do to our world. Some of the greatest concerns stem from a misunderstanding of what these systems can and cannot do. While there are many tasks that are better performed by AI than humans, virtually all of the work carried out by an AI model needs to be overseen by humans. While AI can certainly help us to be better decision-makers, we are nowhere close to being able to pass responsibility over to algorithms or machines,.

Biased models, biased data, biased results

Because AI models are being trained on data, it’s vital that companies and data scientists ensure that their data sets are accurate and unbiased, and that the algorithms they’re training them on are not based on false or outdated suppositions.

Whose data is it anyway?

Data has been called the new oil for good reason: it’s extremely valuable and needs to be refined to be useful. Where data differs greatly from oil, however, is that there appears to be no limit to the amount of data we can produce, it’s far less expensive to store, and it becomes more useful the more it’s used. At present, the Internet Giants have control of a disproportionate amount of the world’s data and are reaping the rewards. But what if there were incentives for these companies to be more open and collaborative? What if the data they are currently amassing were no longer theirs to use as they please? What if there were policies put in place that not only ensure the equitable redistribution of wealth but also open and fair access to data?

Data rights and social contracts

So what will propel the shift in the ownership of and compensation for data?

Redistributing the rewards

In order to move toward a future where the benefits of AI are equitably distributed among all people, we need to shift the way society thinks about economic value. As technology is changing so quickly, van der Linden and Hume both believe that the onus is on industry and to some extent the academics who are at the forefront of these emergent technologies to think about more than bottom lines.



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