'Deep trouble' ahead if AI is not regulated, Dubai summit hears

Up to 70 per cent of jobs could be affected by rapid rise of new technology

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Artificial intelligence is evolving at such a pace that the world is going to be in “deep trouble” if it does not properly regulate the use of new technologies, a Dubai summit heard on Tuesday.

Sean Reyes, Attorney General for Utah in the US, made the claim during opening panel discussions at the two-day AI Everything Summit.

Among the issues anticipated is that, as AI takes a greater role in workplaces at exponential speed, far more jobs than first thought will be made obsolete.

Lord Tim Clement Jones, chair of the UK's House of Lords select committee on AI, said that up to 70 per cent of jobs, especially those done by low-paid, white-collar workers, could soon be performed by machines.

“Governments, the private sector and academia must come together to create incentives for the development and application of ethical practices into the very ecosystem and DNA of AI,” said Mr Reyes.

“If we don’t we will be in deep trouble going forward.”

It was only last week that the UAE approved an ambitious plan to place the country at the forefront of global attempts to develop AI.

The UAE Cabinet adopted the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031 during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.

The project was launched with the aim of embedding the rapidly growing technology across all sections of society from education to government services.

The strategy’s first phase will focus on transport, logistics, cyber security and health care.

“There has to be an equilibrium of balance. AI can be used for great good but it can also be abused,” said Mr Reyes.

“While you cannot stifle innovation with regulations there are justifiable concerns about its use.”

The UAE is also going to be home to a World Economic Forum centre on new technology, it was announced this week. The centre will design and draft policy on emerging technologies and study their impact on the region.

Lord Jones said that the growth of AI was inevitable and that it was up to governments and the private sector to be prepared for it. He compared its impact to that of the invention of the car.

“There is a famous photograph that was taken in 1900 of Fifth Avenue in New York, US, where everyone is in horse-drawn vehicles,” he said.

“Another picture was taken in 1913 at the same location and everyone was in an automobile.”

David Cox, from multinational IT company IBM, warned that change was coming across many sectors, and it would require changes to the roles for which staff were trained.

“This has happened before. In the US, about 33 per cent of the population were employed in agriculture in 1910," he said.

“By the end of the century, it was 1.2 per cent so we have seen job transitions of this magnitude before.”

A recent study by the China Development Research Fund suggested that AI would have a direct impact on 70 per cent of the global workforce.

The same report also warned that 99 per cent of agriculture workers, 98 per cent of construction workers and 94 per cent of people who install and maintain power systems would be replaced by AI within 20 years in China alone.

“What governments have got to do is reskill people,” said Lord Jones.

“The skills we are going to need is not just related to computers and mathematics. It is going to be about creative skills and critical thinking.”

Dr Lim Goh, from another IT multinational, Hewlett-Packard, said that AI could only achieve so much and that human input was still vital.

“Social science will continue to be very important as we build these intelligent machines to make intelligent decisions for us,” he said.

‘We humans still need to be there to ensure they are the right decisions.”