The Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

By Hubert Yoshida posted 07-02-2019 00:00



In January 2015, Stephen HawkingElon Musk, and dozens of artificial intelligenceexperts[1] signed an open letter on artificial intelligence calling for research on the societal impacts of AI. The letter observed that AI has the potential to eradicate disease and poverty and achieve other great benefits for society, but also called for research to prevent the creation of something that cannot be controlled. The four-paragraph letter, titled "Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: An Open Letter", lays out detailed research priorities in an accompanying twelve-page document.

Physicist Stephen Hawking, was the most vocal about this and was often quoted as saying that “The emergence of artificial intelligence could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization.” However, the purpose of the letter was to get AI researchers and developers to pay more attention to AI safety and for policymakers and the general public, to be informed but not alarmed. Another signatory, Professor Francesca Rossi, Italian Computer Scientist, stated that "I think it's very important that everybody knows that AI researchers are seriously thinking about these concerns and ethical issues".

Very few of us are data scientists or AI specialist, however, we all need to be aware of the danger of out of control technology and social responsibility. One of the skills humans have that machines lack is curiosity. We should be curious and question why things are and how they are done. We also have conscience, so that when we sense that something is not “right”, we can protest or change it. We also have the ability to communicate, to share our thoughts with others and understand how others think or feel about events. The responsibility for AI safety is not just the responsibility of the AI researchers and developers but is our collective responsibility.

Our Hitachi and Hitachi Vantara leaders are committed to social innovation and powering good. Our Hitachi CEO , Higashihara, often warns us about the “Light and Shadow” of technology and states, “Our mission is clear: to contribute to society through the development of superior, original technology and products.”