Malavika Jarayam: I think devel­op­ments in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence do pose a strong chal­lenge for human­i­ty. I think at a very fun­da­men­tal lev­el, peo­ple don’t quite under­stand what arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence is, yet it’s used as a buzz­word that’s going to solve every sin­gle prob­lem. You sort of have either a very bina­ry sort of treat­ment of it’s all won­der­ful, it’s all great, and it’s going to solve every prob­lem, or you have robot armies are going to kill everyone. 

I think the first chal­lenge that we have is even the vocab­u­lary that we use to talk about devel­op­ments in AI. I see a lot of peo­ple in Asia (and also else­where in the world, to be fair) who use words like algo­rithms,” big data,” ana­lyt­ics,” arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence” to all mean pret­ty much the same thing. They use them as inter­change­able syn­onyms, and I think that does all of these tech­nolo­gies a dis­ser­vice because they’re not nec­es­sar­i­ly the same thing. You can have automa­tion that is not AI-driven. You can also have AI that is not just about automa­tion. So I think it’s a tech­nol­o­gy or a set of tech­nolo­gies that on some lev­el are very very opaque and inscrutable, yet they’re being talked about as if it’s the most com­mon, obvi­ous, every­day, ubiq­ui­tous thing.

Really what we’re try­ing to do is look at the impact of AI, specif­i­cal­ly on Asian coun­tries. And I think even with­in Asia it’s not a mono­lith­ic thing of you know, all of Asia is going to be treat­ed the same way or is going to react the same way. I think with­in Asia you have coun­tries that are going to be ear­ly adopters of AI, that are very geared up to advanced tech­nolo­gies. So coun­tries like Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, are prob­a­bly going to be a lit­tle bet­ter equipped. And I think a lot of the poor­er, devel­op­ing, emerg­ing economies are not quite there yet. I don’t think they quite under­stand what’s going to hit them when it does, and I think there’s a huge role for acad­e­mia to play in all of this to make sure that in the way that it devel­ops that it’s some­thing that has an eth­i­cal back­bone that is imple­ment­ed respon­si­bly, that has all the right stake­hold­ers involved in the decision-making about how these tech­nolo­gies are deployed. And I think that real­ly needs to be a very very robust con­ver­sa­tion. It’s not the tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies set­ting the stan­dards, and gov­ern­ments and aca­d­e­mics and social sci­en­tists hav­ing no say in how this happens.

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