Whether it is being used to analyze the human immune response to COVID-19 or map the spread of wildfires, artificial intelligence (AI) has proven itself to be a powerful tool for tackling the kinds of challenges that have been thrust into the spotlight this year. However, as the use of AI becomes more widespread, it is also becoming clear that, without action to ensure AI will be used responsibly, it could create problems of its own, disrupting jobs, threatening social and economic inequality and potentially undercutting progress on human rights.
As the use of AI grows, a broad discussion is needed about how to realize its full potential in a way that also addresses the challenges it creates. And, as the ones who will live and work with this technology for years to come, the voice of young people must be at the forefront of these discussions. Launching today, the NextGen Network report How AI Can Work for Humanity seeks to elevate the perspectives of young people around the world, helping them inform the debate on how AI can be used responsibly. The report includes three core recommendations:
- Governments must take the lead in putting into practice new frameworks for responsible AI.
- Countries must work together to drive greater international co-operation on AI and create an international framework for responsible AI use.
- Organizations of all kinds should put a set of values at the center of how AI is deployed to ensure its use is human-centered, accountable and transparent.
Broadening the conversation on AI
The mission of the NextGen Network is to provide a platform for young people to help shape decisions on technology. The report and today’s launch event with Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency, and Sarah Bird, Responsible AI lead for Azure AI at Microsoft, provide an opportunity for young people to share their ideas on how the technology should be developed and used.
NextGen member Enrique Zapata, the data and new technologies lead at the Latin American Development Bank, explained why it’s so important for young people to be part of these discussions: “Our generation, as well as generations Z and A will be the ones living the impact of AI in our lifetimes. It is critical that our voice, values and expectations are taken into account as the main inputs for the future use of digital technologies, even more than those of previous generations, which already had their chance.”
The report is the product of six workshops and a poll of young people from 13 different countries. It finds that the group is positive about the impact that AI will have in general and its ability to drive breakthroughs in healthcare and environmental sustainability. But it also highlights concerns about potential disruption to the world of work, as well as the impact of AI on income inequality and human rights.
The report seeks to add to the global discussion about how to use AI responsibly. This discussion is advancing in many parts of the world, with the EU Commission having recently launched its white paper on AI, the New Zealand government publishing its Algorithm Charter and the UK Government creating its Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. These developments take place alongside many fruitful conversations happening elsewhere. The hope is that the ideas represented in this report can help catalyze further discussion and translate this into positive action.
The breadth of geographical representation and wide range of backgrounds of those feeding into the report was designed to help foster a more international conversation around AI. In doing so, the Network hopes to broaden the conversation around AI and help address concerns that have been raised that the current discussion on AI may be dominated by a narrow group of countries and people in a way that could hinder efforts to ensure responsible use. NextGen member Henri Brebant, graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, stressed the need for this diverse and global conversation, stating that “only a global conversation on AI ethics can generate the momentum that is needed.”
NextGen perspectives on next generation technology
The report is the first of its kind from the NextGen Network, a partnership between the Aspen Institute and Microsoft. The Network was launched in 2018 to provide a forum for young people from around the world to discuss issues of technology and society. Currently active in Mexico, India, UK, France, Germany, and Central and Eastern Europe, the Network brings together people from the fields of science, business, government and journalism as well as civil society, creating a diverse conversation. The Network also looks to create spaces for young people to interact with leaders from across government, business and civil society, providing a platform for an intergenerational conversation on how to ensure technology can be used for the benefit of society.
The opportunity to share ideas with others is often why young people join the Network. Suhasini Vira, NextGen member and founder of the Clean Hands Initiative, said she “got involved in the Network because of its focus on creating spaces for thought-provoking, structured and open conversations about the role of technology in society.”
Similarly, Charlotte Douglas, NextGen member and post-doctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute, said that “engaging in the NextGen network gave me this incredible opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and passionately discuss the impact of digital technologies and how the conversation regarding these technologies is growing and expanding globally.”