AI Forum

Broadening Awareness of AI among New Zealanders

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Following news stories of autonomous robots and dramatic job losses, artificial intelligence (AI) has been a topic of equal parts fascination and scare-mongering. However, while AI is set to drastically change the way we work, its potential to improve the lives of all New Zealanders is vast. This transformation also comes with ethical risks that must be considered in the design and deployment of these systems.

The AI Forum of New Zealand has formed six Working Groups based on the recommendations of the 2018 research report Artificial Intelligence: Shaping a Future New Zealand to tackle some of our biggest opportunities and challenges. One of these is focused on driving awareness to advance our collective understanding of this complex topic, to demystify the technology, and encourage a broad and healthy debate.

Earlier this year, at AI-Day 2019 in Auckland, we saw some great examples of AI projects that are currently underway in New Zealand. From virtual customer service agents (chatbots and avatars) to the use of facial recognition in automating roll-taking in schools or assisting students with personalised learning/career paths, to informed purchasing with the analysis of house value data. AI presents an opportunity to gain more insight and value from the vast store of data that many organisations already obtain..

Speakers from IBM and Microsoft both balanced a pro-AI narrative with a caution that AI also brings vast potential to amplify existing human bias, among other risks. They laid out their remarkably similar ethical frameworks, with Adam Cutler outlining IBM’s five focus areas of AI Design: Accountability, Value Alignment, Explainability, User Data Rights and Fairness, and Microsoft’s David Heiner outlining their philosophy of Fairness, Reliability and Safety, Privacy & Security, Inclusiveness, Transparency and Accountability.

Recently, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty also predicted that AI is “going to change 100% of jobs, 100% of industries, and 100% of professions” and that the deployment of AI systems “is not a technology issue, [but] a change management issue”.

These insights and debates need to reach across all levels of society, not just to those inspired to attend technology conferences. From developers and business decision makers to government policy makers and all of tomorrow’s workforce (today’s students), AI is an opportunity and a challenge for all.

For this reason, the Awareness Working Group will be undertaking a survey to benchmark current levels of awareness across New Zealand society. Following this, we can undertake a programme of work to correct misinformation and enable informed discussion.

Written by Shannon Thomas, who is a member of the AI Forum’s Working Group on Creating Awareness and Discussion of AI. Opinions expressed are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the AI Forum of New Zealand. Learn more about our working groups and work programme.

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