INsight  Technology

It is up to us to ensure artificial intelligence serves all of society

Artificial intelligence is having a radical impact on society, but whether the net effect is positive or negative remains to be seen. Duncan Tait, CEO, SEVP and head of Americas and EMEIA at Fujitsu, explains why collaboration is vital to the long-term success of the technology.

There is no denying that artificial intelligence is transforming the world around us. New AI applications are entering the market at an overwhelming speed and disrupting the nature of work, business and society at a rate of knots.

The amount of growth is so significant that Gartner predicts the global business value of AI will reach over $1tn in this year alone and $3.9tn by 2022. However, as AI-driven technologies increasingly become part of our everyday lives, we all have a responsibility to ensure they are having a positive impact on society.

In fact, a recent parliamentary report by the Lords Committee called on governments to do more to support businesses in their efforts to implement AI technologies in an ethical and responsible way.

The report also highlighted the importance of AI education to help build the jobs of the future, pointing to the fact that any potential impact of AI would be hampered by a current lack of understanding about what the technology is, and how it will affect both companies and their employees.

Fujitsu’s own Digital PACT research mirrored the parliamentary report, finding that implementing AI and developing the necessary skills was a concern for global business leaders. Although it is encouraging to know that 43% of organisations are planning to invest in AI over the next 12 months according to the PACT research, as an industry we must be asking if individual, disjointed investment will lead to the results that we want as a society.

Navigating disruption to reach prosperity

The decisions that we make today about the role of AI and other technologies will determine the society of the future. In fact, our Timeline 2030 report delved into the potential future of the world by 2030, posing two contrasting options: a path to prosperity where we benefit from technological advancements in AI and a negative scenario where we fail to prepare for the impact of AI, resulting in job losses and widespread unemployment.

To realise the first scenario, we must first understand AI. The raw technology has a seemingly unbound potential to analyse and sort information. From this, it can be applied to autonomously operate machinery and improve efficiencies in the business.

However, we need a balanced approach in order to ensure we do not simply eliminate the need for certain roles. For example, in healthcare we use online GPs that can analyse information to diagnose symptoms. By alleviating doctors from the basic aspect of their role, we can enable them to provide better healthcare in more serious situations.

Ethical challenges and the potential of AI

It’s one thing to test, trial and apply AI, but a forward-thinking approach will also be needed in order to consider the ethical implications.

Just last month a report launched in parliament called for an approach that placed ethics at the heart of AI development. Meanwhile other researchers warned us of the tangible threat that AI poses, pointing to scenarios where attackers could develop weapons, attack victims online on a larger scale and spread misinformation.

In order for AI to succeed we need to evaluate the regulation and laws needed. The onus is on organisations and governmental institutes to open the debate and analyse exactly how AI may transform each industry.

From a commercial perspective, there is no doubt that businesses will implement AI. Yet, that doesn’t mean we can take a reckless approach without thinking first of the outcomes.

AI will transform society, and we must prepare for it together

By working together, we can realise a balanced future that puts technology at the forefront, but safeguards our people and our society against any threats. It is a measured, human-centric approach, that we at Fujitsu already use, which will ensure AI is being applied thoughtfully and responsibly.

Our Timeline 2030 research discovered that the majority of businesses are in favour of a co-ordinated approach led by intergovernmental bodies and governments to ensure we implement new technology, like AI, to best effect.

Ultimately, businesses must work together to ensure we can all realise the true benefit of the technology, while steering clear of the threats.

This article by Fujitsu first appeared in artificial intelligence magazine Verdict AI.

Read the magazine here >>

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