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Five recommendations ahead of the artificial intelligence revolution

The spread of artificial intelligence will have positive and negative effects. In order for the former to outweigh the latter, companies, politicians and social groups should gave some thought to this and act accordingly.

Nobody can doubt that the social impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will be enormous. Although there are clear questions without answers such as: is society prepared for what’s coming? What measures should public leaders take to ensure artificial intelligence improves the lives of human beings in the XXI century?

A recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – the consultant that emerged from the British weekly of the same name – tries to answer such questions, focusing on four of the sectors that will change as a result of the development of artificial intelligence: industry, health, energy and transport. These are areas in which one can already discern some of the challenges posted by the broad application of artificial intelligence. For example, job destruction in industry, doubts about the security of the private data of patients, cybersecurity of smart grids with predictive functions and regulations on traffic accidents in which self-driving cars are involved.

The report, which was carried out in collaboration with Google, doesn’t go into details in any of these sectors, opting instead to providing generic recommendations on them from a political and social point of view. These are five of the most important of these:

1. Recognize the social risks implied by artificial intelligence

The first step in resolving a problem is to recognize that it exists. According to EIU, the risk for the future of employment and privacy posed by artificial intelligence is undeniable. Faced with this reality, there is no room for complacency or resignation.

2. Explain, educate and boost transparency

To demand blind faith in algorithms is a sure road to misinformation and distortion about artificial intelligence. “The biggest challenge facing AI is the possible lack of confidence in the technology due to a lack of transparency on how machines arrive at their decisions”, says Manuela Veloso, the head of the department of machine learning of Carnegie Mellon University, one of 14 global experts interviewed for the report. Those at the vanguard of the AI revolution need to explain their work and the plans for society in the simplest way possible. They have a lot of power and that brings with it a lot of responsibility, the EIU says.

3. Adapt training and education to the new artificial intelligence society

This involves working with three tools: professional training, which has fallen by the wayside in many countries and needs to be given more importance, the report says; maintaining the focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and not to forget the importance of the humanities whose value will grow as a result of an expected increase in the demand for soft skills such as teambuilding, cooperation and critical thought. All of this in a way that makes close collaboration between teachers, business and lawmakers more necessary than ever in the face of the ongoing evolution of training needs.

4. Regulation and improving the treatment of data

As the report categorically states, the use of data is going to be one of the defining questions of the 21st century. It calls for the creation of specific regulations that allow the appropriate use of aggregate anonymous data in response to current doubts on cybersecurity and privacy. However, these regulations should not prevent the movement of data beyond state borders.

5. Build bridges and enhance communication

The report notes many gaps in understanding with respect to the development of artificial intelligence, but probably the biggest one is between company technical experts and political leaders.

Good public policies could lessen the negative effects of artificial intelligence without limiting the positive ones, the report concludes –for example, in the labor market,