"Working for a living will become obsolete. AI and robots will make the stuff we need and provide the services we need. The path to get there will be rocky. I don't worry about the end game. It's going to be great. But I worry about the path getting there." -- SingularityNet CEO Dr. Ben Goertzel in interview with CBS News/CNET's Dan Patterson
That's a nice vision and the quote gives you a good feel for how artificial intelligence was a key topic at the World Economic Forum, a powwow of global leaders and C-level folks talking about saving the world. That quote also gives you a good idea of how out of touch the Davos crowd is from the on-the-ground concerns among regular folks, the builders and the implementers when it comes to artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and other handy tech buzzwords.
A few high-level takeaways out of the Davos AI chatter:
- Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said AI is a human right.
- Goertzel noted how just a few companies and organizations control the AI, data and innovation flow. He added that approach isn't going to be the smoothest path. He was big on the idea of emerging general intelligence and governance via a democratic approach.
- Europe is lagging capturing digital economic gains and AI because it's research and development spend has stagnated at 2 percent of GDP.
- Labor replacement and reskilling is critical. One WEF theme revolved around how it's time for business leaders to focus on upskilling and retraining yet remaining flexible.
- Values, ethics and data use will be an integration issue as well as a governance one. This WEF chart about the fourth industrial revolution highlights the integration. It made me chuckle since it's complicated to be implemented. It's a nice graphic though.
Now I get that AI is an issue that goes well beyond technology and its impact on society is going to be a bit complicated. I also don't buy Goertzel's vision of AI utopia. Humans are meant to work. What are the psychological impacts of having a bunch of non-working humans? It's a question no one is really asking, but my guess is all that free time is going to result in a global population of people who feel unfulfilled.
That conversation should be ongoing, but perhaps the biggest issue with AI is the global lack of leadership across multiple institutions. Constellation Research principal Ray Wang summed up the next phase of globalization and how AI fits into it. After all, AI will run through all future designs.
As world leaders and elites convene to discuss Globalization 4.0, the lack of self-awareness and empathy of populist viewpoints hinder policy effectiveness. Swift decisive actions now trump patient planning and decision making regardless of impact. The populace yearns for a clear path to equal opportunity, fairness, and meritocracy. Unfortunately, leaders have no more tools to offer other than empty promises.
The need for leadership has never been greater and the forces of good must trump evil in this precarious period. This call to action must be heeded. As centralized systems create winner takes all markets and exacerbate inequality, decentralization will empower a shift of power and create new opportunities. Leaders must step up to craft systems that ensure equal opportunity.
AI will intersect with all those issues. AI will be a decade long scrum and possibly more.
Correction: SingularityNet CEO Dr. Ben Goertzel's name was misspelled in earlier version of this article.
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