This article was published by The Future Society in Policy Research, The AI Initiative on June 3, 2017

Making the AI Revolution Work for Everyone

Main insight

If the definitional boundaries of Artificial Intelligence (AI) remains contested, experts agree that we are witnessing a revolution.
“Is this time different?”

Policy ResearchThe AI Initiative
June 3, 2017
3 min read

If the definitional boundaries of Artificial Intelligence (AI) remains contested, experts agree that we are witnessing a revolution. “Is this time different?” is the question that they worryingly argue over when they analyze the socio-economic impact of the AI revolution as compared with the other industrial revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries. This Schumpeterian wave may prove to be a creative destruction raising incomes, enhancing the quality of life for all and generating previously unimagined jobs to replace those that get automatized. Or it may turn out to be a destructive creation leading to mass unemployment abuses, or loss of control over decision-making processes. This depends on the velocity and magnitude of the development and diffusion of AI technologies, a point over which experts diverge widely. It also depends on how societies react, both individually and collectively. The solutions are firmly enmeshed in politics.

Policy-makers need to invest more resources to develop a finer understanding of the very notion and dynamics of the AI revolution. Moreover, societies’ abilities to shape the AI revolution into a “creative destruction” and diffuse its benefits to all will mostly depend on how societies react, both individually and collectively. The solutions are firmly enmeshed in politics.

Technology is certainly not destiny and policy as well as institutional choices will matter greatly. According to our analysis, making the AI revolution work for everyone will require the reform and the potential reinvention of social security, redistribution mechanisms, as well as education and skill development systems, to allow for repeated and viable professional transitions. Policy and regulatory frameworks will also need rebalancing to protect the most vulnerable from socio-economic exclusion, to prevent algorithmic discrimination and privacy abuses, to ensure control and accountability, as well as to avoid an exacerbation of wealth and opportunity inequalities.

Given the currently unprecedented level of interdependence between countries, these transformations urgently require more active international coordination to harmonize value-systems and to ethically align design principles. This will avoid excessive power concentration, and rein-in potentially adverse competition dynamics. A dangerous arms-race may loom in the not-so-distant future as physical and cyberspaces become increasingly imbricated. The potential benefits of the AI revolution are truly worth this generational effort. According to many economists, the expected wave of productivity gains has the potential to sustain growth and development over the next decades, counterbalancing the decreasing working-age population. The rise of AI could also radically enhance the quality of life for all, through revolutions in healthcare, transportation, education, security, justice, agriculture, retail, commerce, finance, insurance and banking, as well as other domains. The benefits that can be reaped need to be better understood, supported, and governed.

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