Are AI, big data and robotics changing life for the better or for the worse?

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AI and robotics


Trilateral Research |

Date: 7 November 2018

The potential impact of AI and robotics technologies on society is immense.

Such technologies carry great promise. For example, they can facilitate efficiency by freeing up time spent on menial or repetitive tasks. These technologies can also complement and improve human productivity and open up new possibilities to transform lives.

Managed effectively, AI can help improve decision-making, inter-cultural communication, facilitate cooperation in important social issues such as health and elderly care, cybersecurity and voting security, policing, and more.

But unless we manage the implementation and use of AI and robotics prudently, such technologies can also have severe and adverse impacts: social, economic and environmental. Key social impacts include:

  • increase in bias and discrimination
  • inequality
  • privacy infringements
  • harms from increase in surveillance
  • profiling
  • use of autonomous weapons

Trilateral Research is looking into the positive and negative impacts that AI and robotics may have on our society.

SIENNA Project

Part of the research carried out within the SIENNA project has shown how AI and robotics can also have adverse economic effects (depending on how they are adopted)

We have identified the acceleration of economic inequality, concentration of economic power and disruptions in careers and job losses as some of citizens’ main concerns regarding the impacts of AI and robotics.

Furthermore, we have highlighted a potential adverse impact on the environment – e.g., increased use of robots might lead to further environmental contamination as their component materials are toxic and non-biodegradable.

SHERPA Project

 Our work in the SHERPA project has already identified a range of ethical and legal issues that need to be dealt with to ensure the responsible use of these technologies.

We have been exploring the ethical and legal issues related to smart information systems (SIS), i.e. the combination of AI and big data analytics, with a focus on:

  • equality
  • privacy and data protection
  • public security
  • duty of care to vulnerable members of society
  • transparency
  • fairness
  • justice
  • proportionality

Trilateral team is developing case studies focussed on the ethical and human rights implications of the application of smart information systems in ten different domains ranging from energy and telecoms to agriculture, as well as scenarios about the future implications of such technologies in education, defence, transport and policing. Key issues already identified include:

  • the need to ensure fairness of systems
  • importance of not delegating blindly and maintaining vigilance
  • the potential for EU policy leadership in providing the best ethical and regulatory framework
  • greater engagement with the technologists

In parallel with this work, we are also exploring regulatory options for the future and developing a Delphi study, which will involve more than 60 European experts in a two-step survey.

On 7 November 2018, the SHERPA project exhibited its work at the Social Innovation Village of the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon. Read about it here.

For more information on our research contact our team.

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