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AI "more profound than electricity or fire?"

AI "more profound than electricity or fire?"

Posted on 23rd January 2020

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The taming of fire by our ancestors was undoubtedly a major step on humankind's journey, enabling, amongst other things, an improvement on raw meat.  Interestingly, it's fire (and electricity) that Alphabet's CEO, Sundar Pichai, referred to as a means of putting the importance of AI in context.  

As reported in The Times  Pichai told the annual beanfeast of the world's business luvvies at Davos that it is incumbent on the world's leaders to ensure that AI “did not have bias, that it was built and tested for safety and that it was ultimately accountable to people.”  Admirable sentiments, but I suspect that, given my colleague Freddie Kydd's previous articles on the use of AI for warfare, most of the rest of us non-Davos celebrities will say good luck with that one.

​On a more serious note, Pichai is, of course, right. But, in the same article he is quoted as also saying, "You think about technologies like facial recognition . . . it can be used to find missing people. But it can also be used for mass surveillance."

Ironically, in the same day's paper, in Janice Turner's comment column, she notes how "Sainsbury's had positioned a camera over each self-checkout till" and "the Chinese use 'smart lampposts' ... to identify spitters, jaywalkers or even people who steal loo roll in public bathrooms."  

Just a few days before, The Times ran an article arguing that the police "should pause their use of facial recognition." If Pichai's admirable desire to make AI accountable to the people is to be fulfilled then we need to start this happening now.  

Michael Phair, Ops Director

Posted in AI, News, Opinion

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