By Mia Hem
Artificial Intelligence plays a big role in billions of people’s lives. And it does on a daily basis. It has already transformed our societies and challenged the meaning of humanity, while often going unnoticed and with profound consequences, both in positive and negative terms. For instance, it provides students with the adequate support to complete secondary education; it creates jobs; and helps us overcome the spread and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these useful instances, it may also generate various risks and hazards that can lead to deepening inequalities and divides at all spectrums of Society.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that AI has contributed to slowing down the economic impact of the crisis through digital platforms. It was a tool used to contain the spread of the virus through test, track and technologies, as well as crunching great amounts of data in order to find vaccines or apt treatments. Nevertheless, having access to this data has also led to concerns regarding privacy, data protections and the use of data beyond its initial needs. Moreover, it is estimated that AI has contributed, and still does, to a growing economic inequality. By 2022, AI was expected to generate about US$ 119.78 billion, and by 2030 China and North America are expected to have the strongest economic gains, producing 70% of its global economic impact. With this concentration of AI in few high-income countries, it is likely that developing countries will be left behind - with a lack of ownership and access to AI. On top of this, AI is also contributing to a widening of the gender gaps, as only 22% of the AI professionals are women. As a consequence, the reproduction of gender biases and stereotypes in AI technology is becoming more frequent. The willingness to serve and the submissiveness often represented in virtual personal assistants, like Siri and Alexa, is just one example of how AI contributes to this widening gender gap.
The presence of AI in all these parts of our lives also allows for it to direct our choices. So, how can we guarantee that such hazards are identified and taken care of? First and foremost, there is a need for International policies and regulatory frameworks that will ensure that AI technology is as beneficial as possible for humanity as a whole. At the moment, there is a lack of legislation around the industry which needs to be addressed immediately. How can we bridge this gap? Although there already exist many different frameworks and guidelines, it is important that they are implemented evenly across the globe. Thus, there needs to be an agreement on what values are imperative, as well as what rules should be adapted among the International Community. Moreover, AI developers should maintain a human-centered approach, such that AI continues to account for the greater interest of the people, and not for private and profit-driven ones. In general, there must be collaboration among all levels of Society - from governments, policymakers and international organizations to businesses, public and private sector companies and Civil Society - in order for AI to generate e-welfare for all, leaving no one behind thus achieving the UN 2030 Agenda.