UAE right to put AI on the political agenda, says European Commissioner for Innovation

AI is not just a technological issue, but must be treated as a political item by nations

epa06313206 EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas speaks during the second day the 7th Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, 07 November 2017. The annual technology and internet conference attracts over 60,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, according to the organizers.  EPA/ANTONIO COTRIM

Artificial intelligence must no longer be treated just as technology, warned Carlos Moedas.

“AI will have to be on the political stage because I think that AI is not just about technology,” the European Commissioner for Research Science and Innovation told the National.

“There will be political choices to make in terms of artificial intelligence and the political choice… [is do] you want AI to augment our intelligence to get us be a better person and to do the things we do better or if you want AI to replace us,” Mr Moedas said.

Asked whether other countries will follow in the footsteps of the UAE and elect a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Mr Moedas saw merit in placing AI so close to the heart of government.

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“It is interesting to see countries looking at ministers for AI,” he said.

“Different countries organise their governments in different ways but absolutely it has to be on the political agenda and I think that the mistake so far is that we’ve been thinking AI is just a technological challenge and it’s not. It’s a political issue: in terms of ethics, in terms of liability.”.

Yesterday, eminent scientist Stephen Hawking warned that AI would make or break civilisation. He said the new technology could eradicate disease and poverty, but could also end mankind if it was left unchecked.

“I think the choice of Europe is very clear: we want politically AI to be something that gets us to be better at what we do, to augment our intelligence or at least the capacity of associating and association with data that as human beings we can not do as in the same way as a machine - but we do not want AI to replace us,” clarified Mr Moedas

The European Commissioner said that the way to ensure AI is monitored appropriately is likely be appointing someone to do so.

He would not be drawn at who that person should be, but indicated it should be someone senior, as it is in the UAE, saying, “probably the solution is to have someone looking at it, I don’t know if it’s at a ministerial level or a state secretary”.

In October, the UAE selected Oman bin Sultan Al Olama, 27, as the first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. It came two days after Sheikh Mohammed announced the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative in the UAE Centennial 2071 objectives.