AI: a force for good?

Posted on: January 14, 2019 by Sue Daley

Recent headlines in the UK have focused on the economic importance, and value, of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Research by the Mayor of London has already shown that London is ahead of New York, Paris and Berlin as the preferred location for AI companies to do business.

An economic global power

Historically a global leader in AI, the UK Government has continued to show support for the sector by publishing the AI Sector Deal worth £1 billion in April 2018. Acting as a blueprint for how to make UK businesses and citizens AI ready, it is now estimated that £630 billion could be added to the UK economy by 2035.

If you only read these headlines you would be forgiven for thinking that AI offers the UK real potential to be an economic power in the global AI arms race, and you would be right. techUK sees the huge economic potential and value of AI through its ability to increase productivity across all industries and sectors - but that’s not the end of the story. We also believe that AI can be a power for good and a significant tool to help drive social and personal well-being.

Benefits in the health sector

We don’t have to wait for this to happen. The deployment and use of AI technologies, specifically machine learning, is already demonstrating the positive social benefits it can offer. For example, Google’s Deepmind has recently developed an AI system that detects eye disease quicker and just as efficiently as a world leading ophthalmologist. This is a great demonstration of how AI could not just support, but also enhance the work of our NHS, improving the treatment and lives of people with eye disease. Indeed AI language processing is being used across the NHS to automate the transcribing of medical notes in healthcare, meaning crucial resources including doctors and nurses, can be deployed in other areas, saving money and making the system more efficient.

Looking to the impact on wider society

We are also seeing an increase in the use of AI in day-to-day life, with AI being used for everything from increasing consumer protection against fraud, to being at the heart of the driverless vehicle revolution. In addition, it is helping to clean up the planet by training AI algorithms to analyse drone footage, and identify plastics and other foreign objects floating in seas and oceans which can then be cleared. Everyday, AI is transforming our cities and our environment, making them cleaner, safer, and more efficient. With this sector developing so fast, these intelligent, autonomous, AI-driven systems and tools powered by data could also in the very near future, provide the answers to tackling some of societies biggest issues, such as managing an ageing population or child poverty.

A public debate

If the UK is to fully embrace this development and realise the social and economic benefits that AI offers, there are many profound social, legal, and ethical questions that first need to be identified, discussed, understood and answered.

Concerns and fears must be recognised and addressed, and we must also acknowledge and promote the positive role that machine learning and AI are playing in people’s lives, delivering changes that society and its people really want.

Everyone in society – individuals, employees, families, communities, companies, and the nation as a whole – must explore what the future of AI will mean. Without a balanced and constructive discussion, we risk society not truly understanding the benefits AI can bring. This may then unintentionally stifle positive change or prevent organisations across the public and private sectors from embracing AI technologies, that have the potential to be a real force and power for social and economic good in the UK.

Digital Vision for AI

This article is part of the Atos Digital Vision for AI opinion paper. We explore the realities of AI and what’s ahead for organisations and society, as artificial intelligence advances fast as an enterprise solution.

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About Sue Daley
Head of Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI
Sue Daley leads techUK's work on cloud, data analytics and AI and has been recognised as one of the most influential women in UK tech by Computer Weekly. Sue has also been recognised in UK Big Data 100 as a key influencer in driving forward the Big Data agenda, shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was recently a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, she is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.

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