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Phones and technology are becoming an extension of life

Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said today that ''as we embrace the unprecedented changes brought on by the fourth industrial revolution, government leaders and policy-makers must work to overturn public fears and misperceptions of a future controlled by AI.'' Al Olama was talking to a packed audience at AREA 2071’s centre stage in Emirates Towers in a session titled, "The World of Tech in 2020: The Differentiating Year Between Hype and Reality", at the inaugural Frontiers Series 2020, organised by the World Government Summit. Al Olama said that top-level policy-makers need to find solutions to inherent cultural biases within AI systems, and work diligently to ensure that social media platforms, powered by AI algorithms, are used to have a positive impact rather than being "weaponized" to the detriment of its users.

"People look at AI as a weapon of mass destruction," he explained. "But today, it is more of a weapon mass distraction. All of us are on our phones, all the time. Phones and technology are becoming an extension of us. And it has become a tool of mass chaos to some extent. Whether it’s being used to document world crises or encourage the election of presential candidates, AI is being used for distraction and direction."

Al Olama’s point is pertinent given the major upcoming elections around the world which will have far-reaching consequences on the global economy.

During the discussion, Al Olama pointed out that various levels of technology need to be approached with a view to future implementation if humanity is to get the balance between AI-enabled societies and AI-controlled societies.

"There are three levels of technologies: Technologies that have potential but are not ready, technologies that are ready but not scaled, and technologies that are scaled but not used at the right time," he explained.

"The smartphone was one of the most revolutionary technologies. Yet, when it first launched it brought a lot of promise but didn’t do much good. The moment we started to use smartphones and their consumption was in the millions, this is when applications made sense from a business perspective. This is when the whole infrastructure around the smart phones was able to develop."

Moving forward, he says, "Data will drive us to consume more, to take certain actions and also develop certain habits. 2020 is going to be the year where we will see a backlash against people leveraging AI and modern technologies to push people to do something they are not committed to."

Human sovereignty was a point of discussion. Al Olama continued, "With every tech advancement the tools that have been developed have been used against humans. Take a look at the first Industrial Revolution; the locomotive, the cars – they were used primarily for transportation, but they were recognized in certain countries to give them an edge."

Al Olama expressed his enthusiasm for Asimov’s three laws of robotics. Asimov’s belief aims to condense a whole spectrum of technology under three sets of simple laws. "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

He ended the discussion by saying that we need to put more focus on cloud computing: "We don’t credit cloud computing enough. We are able to do a lot with it, I think it will be revolutionizing. Merge it with AI, and we will be able to see certain countries left behind deploy services previously impossible. It will change everything."

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