The race for AI

The race for AI
European Union has called for a €20bn (£14bn) cash injection for artificial intelligence research. Other European nations like the UK and the France have already begun..

European Union has called for a €20bn (£14bn) cash injection for artificial intelligence research. Other European nations like the UK and the France have already begun significantly investing in this technology. Experts believe that AI will transform the way society functions in the 21st century.

Background

Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that can otherwise be performed only through human intelligence. This includes but is not limited to visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Presently, most of the technology focused on Artificial Intelligence is properly known as narrow AI or weak AI. Self-driving cars and Siri are some of the platforms that employ AI (narrow AI). Researchers and experts now believe that humanity is now on the path to creating General Artificial Intelligence (AGI). According to scientists, AGI would be able to outperform humans in nearly every single cognitive task.

Elon Musk has often spoken about the potent risks inherent in AI. He is a South African-born Canadian American business magnate, investor and inventor. He is best known as the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX. He stated in 2017 that Artificial Intelligence would be the catalyst for the next world war. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that which ever country is able to become pioneers in Artificial Intelligence, will be able to become the most powerful nation in the world.

One of the most successful programmes that have been created with regards to AI is Google’s AlphaGo. In 2016, the AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player Lee Sedol for the first time. Go is a strategic board game that is considered even more difficult than Chess. In 2017, Google’s DeepMind achieved yet another landmark in the field. The team has created a program that has for the first time taught itself from scratch how to defeat human players in the complex Chinese game of Go.

Analysis

World leaders have in the recent years begun talking about the importance of investing in AI. In September 2017, Russian leader Vladimir Putin predicted that whichever country leads the way in AI research will come to dominate global affairs.

“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind,” said Putin at the time. “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” According to experts in the field, it is US and China who are presently frontrunners in developing artificial intelligence technology. China recently announced its ambition to become the global leader in AI research by 2030.

In February 2018, a group of academicians and experts published a report titled, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation.” Through this report they warned against the kind of threats the technology posed if advancements continued to take place unchecked.

It has now been confirmed that the European Commission has called for a €20bn (£14bn) cash injection for artificial intelligence research. Fearing that Europe was losing ground to China and the US, EU has urged nations to prioritize AI research. Commission officials stressed they wanted a human-centric approach to AI policy. “Robots will never become humans,” said Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the European commissioner for industry.

Specific nations in Europe have already begun investing in AI. In 2018, French President Macron committed €1.5 billion in public funding for AI by 2022. UK has also made significant inroads into investing in the technology. U.S. tech giants, European telecoms firms, Japanese venture capital and the U.K. government have put together a 1 billion-pound ($1.4 billion) investment into the U.K. artificial intelligence industry. “Artificial intelligence provides limitless opportunities to develop new, efficient and accessible products and services,” Business Secretary Greg Clark said in an emailed statement.

Governments have also begun contemplating the moral implications of AI and the kind of policies that will have to be instated to safeguard societies in the future. The UK is among a group of 24 European countries that signed a declaration this month pledging a European approach to artificial intelligence. “It can ... solve key societal challenges, from sustainable healthcare to climate change and from cybersecurity to sustainable migration,” the ministerial declaration said.

Assessment

Our assessment is that AI technology has implications in the way society would function in the 21st century. Any government that is able to master and pioneer this technology, will transform the labor market and also its military arsenal. Multiple experts have also begun sounding their alarms on how AI can be manipulated in the future and the inherent dangers it poses. Governments across the world must decide on whether or not they should heed the warnings of technology leaders and experts. Many working in the field have stated that this technology should be closely regulated and monitored. One main reason why Europe is now aggressively pushing for more AI research is because governments are concerned over China’s increased influence in the field. The race to develop AI technology could become the next proverbial arms race between nations of the world.

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