How Dubai is striving to ensure artificial intelligence is 'ethical'

Smart Dubai is working on a code of principles to ensure the new technology is used for the benefit of society

As artificial intelligence becomes more common in our lives, those at its cutting edge are wary of how it can be misused.

Now Smart Dubai, a government team helping to turn the city into the happiest on earth through technology, is working on an ethical constitution to make sure it and its private sector partners uphold the UAE's values.

The country has embraced the drive to harness AI, appointing the world's first minister for artificial intelligence, Omar Al Olama, last year.

Technological innovation will make citizens happier, said Dr Aisha bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai.

"We have a specific team developing what we call AI principles and ethics," Dr bin Bishr told The National at a Google Making AI conference in Amsterdam.

She said this team would be taught to use these principles and ethics in their work.

While Dr bin Bishr did not give details, she said the first draft was “much aligned” with the seven principles set out by Google this year.


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The ethics of AI was on the tip of all the speakers’ tongues at the Google conference, which included a talk by the company’s Ethical Machine Learning team leader, Jen Gennai.

The technology leader's AI wing came under fire this year when it was revealed that the company was developing technology with the US to improve targeted drone strikes.

After a backlash from its employees, Google released an AI code of conduct that vowed not to pursue a contract "whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people". It also said it would not renew its contract with the Pentagon next year.

The principles outline Google’s commitment to ensuring its machine learning is only used in socially beneficial applications.

To improve its reputation and regain trust, last month the tech company announced it would give away $25 million (Dh92m) to projects that propose to use AI for social good.

In this respect Dubai is already well ahead of the curve, having already committed to using technology to build a safer and more environmentally friendly world.

Smart Dubai is also helping all Dubai’s government departments to go paperless by 2021.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has set out his vision for 25 per cent of all journeys made in the emirate to be in automated transport by 2030 to reduce emissions and road accidents.

Dr bin Bishr believes that technology should never be made for technology’s sake but to add value to the world.

“In Dubai, we don’t take technology as the end goal. It is an enabler,” she said. “We want to be able to promote a happier life for people, so we use technology to improve our quality of life.”