With virtual assistants sitting on our kitchen counters, connected toys living in our kids' bedrooms, and facial recognition software popping up on our street corners, it can sometimes feel like we are living in an episode of Black Mirror. Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be revolutionizing our world, but we can't take it for granted that these technologies will be positive for our kids and the next generation. To keep kids safe online, we must develop a culture of responsibility now -- one in which online safety relies upon government, tech companies, schools, parents, and kids themselves. When policymakers think about AI these days, they tend to focus on jobs and the economy. They don't think as much about the risks, particularly for children and young people who will encounter these technologies as they come of age in this new world.
Digital life is augmenting human capacities and disrupting eons-old human activities. Code-driven systems have spread to more than half of the world's inhabitants in ambient information and connectivity, offering previously unimagined opportunities and unprecedented threats. As emerging algorithm-driven artificial intelligence (AI) continues to spread, will people be better off than they are today? Some 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists answered this question in a canvassing of experts conducted in the summer of 2018. The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities. They spoke of the wide-ranging possibilities; that computers might match or even exceed human intelligence and capabilities on tasks such as complex decision-making, reasoning and learning, sophisticated analytics and pattern recognition, visual acuity, speech recognition and language translation. They said "smart" systems in communities, in vehicles, in buildings and utilities, on farms and in business processes will save time, money and lives and offer opportunities for individuals to enjoy a more-customized future.
"Please think forward to the year 2030. Analysts expect that people will become even more dependent on networked artificial intelligence (AI) in complex digital systems. Some say we will continue on the historic arc of augmenting our lives with mostly positive results as we widely implement these networked tools. Some say our increasing dependence on these AI and related systems is likely to lead to widespread difficulties. Our question: By 2030, do you think it is most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will enhance human capacities and empower them? That is, most of the time, will most people be better off than they are today? Or is it most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will lessen human autonomy and agency to such an extent that most people will not be better off than the way things are today? Please explain why you chose the answer you did and sketch out a vision of how the human-machine/AI collaboration will function in 2030.
For the past few years, we've shared predictions each December on what we believe will be the top ten technology policy issues for the year ahead. As this year draws to a close, we are looking out a bit further. It gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon the past ten years and consider what the 2020s may bring. As we concluded in our book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, "Technology innovation is not going to slow down. The work to manage it needs to speed up." Digital technology has gone longer with less regulation than virtually any major technology before it. This dynamic is no longer sustainable, and the tech sector will need to step up and exercise more responsibility while governments catch up by modernizing tech policies. In short, the 2020s will bring sweeping regulatory changes to the world of technology. Tech is at a crossroads, and to consider why, it helps to start with the changes in technology itself. The 2010s saw four trends intersect, collectively transforming how we work, live and learn. Continuing advances in computational power made more ambitious technical scenarios possible both for devices and servers, while cloud computing made these advances more accessible to the world. Like the invention of the personal computer itself, cloud computing was as important economically as it was technically. The cloud allows organizations of any size to tap into massive computing and storage capacity on demand, paying for the computing they need without the outlay of capital expenses. More powerful computers and cloud economics combined to create the third trend, the explosion of digital data.
These are just a few ways the world's top researchers and industry leaders have described the threat that artificial intelligence poses to mankind. Will AI enhance our lives or completely upend them? There's no way around it -- artificial intelligence is changing human civilization, from how we work to how we travel to how we enforce laws. As AI technology advances and seeps deeper into our daily lives, its potential to create dangerous situations is becoming more apparent. A Tesla Model 3 owner in California died while using the car's Autopilot feature. In Arizona, a self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian (though there was a driver behind the wheel). Register for the live briefing to find out about the top AI trends expected to reshape industries and economies this year. Other instances have been more insidious. For example, when IBM's Watson was tasked with helping physicians diagnose cancer patients, it gave numerous "unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations." Some of the world's top researchers and industry leaders believe these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. How might that redefine humanity's place in the world?