In early 2018, one of Malaysia's key security forces made a startling announcement. The Auxiliary Force, a branch of the Royal Malaysia Police Cooperative, had entered into a partnership with the Chinese company Yitu Technology to equip the Force's officers with facial-recognition capabilities. Security officials will be able to rapidly compare images caught by live body cameras with images from a central database. The head of the Auxiliary Force explained that this use of artificial intelligence (AI) was a "significant step forward" in efforts to improve public security. He also noted that his agency planned eventually to enhance the body-camera system so as to enable "real-time facial recognition and instant alerts to the presence of persons of interest from criminal watch lists."1
The Chinese government has wholeheartedly embraced surveillance technology to exercise control over its citizenry in ways both big and small. It's facial-scanning passers-by to arrest criminals at train stations, gas pumps, and sports stadiums and broadcasting the names of individual jaywalkers. Government-maintained social credit scores affect Chinese citizens' rights and privileges if they associate with dissidents. In Tibet and Xinjiang, the government is using facial recognition and big data to surveil the physical movements of ethnic minorities, individually and collectively, to predict and police demonstrations before they even start. China is even using facial recognition to prevent the overuse of toilet paper in some public bathrooms.
In July 2009, deadly riots broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, China. Nearly 200 people died, the majority ethnic Han Chinese, and thousands of Chinese troops were brought in to quell the riots. An information battle soon followed, as mobile phone and internet service was cut off in the entire province. For the next 10 months, web access would be almost non-existent in Xinjiang, a vast region larger than Texas with a population of over 20 million. It was one of the most widespread, longest internet shutdowns ever.
Most people are not very familiar with the concept of artificial intelligence (AI). As an illustration, when 1,500 senior business leaders in the United States in 2017 were asked about AI, only 17 percent said they were familiar with it.1 A number of them were not sure what it was or how it would affect their particular companies. They understood there was considerable potential for altering business processes, but were not clear how AI could be deployed within their own organizations. Despite its widespread lack of familiarity, AI is a technology that is transforming every walk of life. It is a wide-ranging tool that enables people to rethink how we integrate information, analyze data, and use the resulting insights to improve decisionmaking. Our hope through this comprehensive overview is to explain AI to an audience of policymakers, opinion leaders, and interested observers, and demonstrate how AI already is altering the world and raising important questions for society, the economy, and governance. In this paper, we discuss novel applications in finance, national security, health care, criminal justice, transportation, and smart cities, and address issues such as data access problems, algorithmic bias, AI ethics and transparency, and legal liability for AI decisions. We contrast the regulatory approaches of the U.S. and European Union, and close by making a number of recommendations for getting the most out of AI while still protecting important human values.2 Although there is no uniformly agreed upon definition, AI generally is thought to refer to "machines that respond to stimulation consistent with traditional responses from humans, given the human capacity for contemplation, judgment and intention."3 According to researchers Shubhendu and Vijay, these software systems "make decisions which normally require [a] human level of expertise" and help people anticipate problems or deal with issues as they come up.4 As such, they operate in an intentional, intelligent, and adaptive manner. Artificial intelligence algorithms are designed to make decisions, often using real-time data. They are unlike passive machines that are capable only of mechanical or predetermined responses. Using sensors, digital data, or remote inputs, they combine information from a variety of different sources, analyze the material instantly, and act on the insights derived from those data. With massive improvements in storage systems, processing speeds, and analytic techniques, they are capable of tremendous sophistication in analysis and decisionmaking.