Artificial intelligence important, but responsible AI just as important, say speakers at Insead forum

A telepresence robot being showcased at Nanyang Technological University as part of a press conference on artificial intelligence. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to tap on artificial intelligence (AI) to sustain economic growth, Smart Nation and Digital Government Office deputy secretary Tan Kok Yam said on Saturday (April 13).

With the country's workforce shrinking as the population ages, AI can help to raise productivity, added Mr Tan, who was a speaker at the Insead AI Forum held at the Insead business school in Ayer Rajah.

Citing examples of how the Government has used AI technology in the past, such as that to help spot fraudulent claims related to the Skills Future Fund and the detection of drowning incidents in public swimming pools, Mr Tan said that the potential of using AI for social good is "enormous".

In Singapore, the Government has been using AI technologies to predict when infrastructure such as roads and lifts need maintenance and provide personalised citizen services, among other things.

On the latter, Mr Tan admitted that the idea may be "spooky" for some, but in such areas as education, more personalised AI technology can, for example, help to detect early which child may have a learning disability.

Indeed, while all the speakers at the forum underlined the great potentials and benefits of AI, some highlighted the ethical issues related to AI and called for the need to implement responsible AI.

Insead's Novartis Chaired Professor of management and the environment Klaus Wertenbroch pointed out how algorithms had reinforced certain biases and did away with equal opportunity rights in the case of Facebook's controversial ad practices.

Last month, the American social media giant was accused by the Trump administration of selling targeted ads that discriminated on the basis of race.

Prof Wertenbroch also brought up the now famous case of how the unethical sharing of Facebook users' personal data had been used to target ads to sway voters and influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.

Ms Sunita Kannan, director of Asean Analytics and AI advisory lead at consulting firm Accenture, cited examples of how sampling bias in AI models can lead to negative consequences.

One was the case of how US e-commerce giant Amazon used to recruit staff using an AI tool which showed bias against women.

She said organisations using AI need to understand what ethical and responsible AI means. They also have to look at machines and algorithms and make them "more unbiased".

"AI is everywhere around us, in every single decision that we make... and the move to responsible AI is now," she added.

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