The late Steven Hawking described artificial intelligence (AI) as “the best or worst thing to happen to humanity”, while Tesla founder Elon Musk claimed that with the use of AI “we are summoning the demon”.
But David Kitchin, Justice of the UK Supreme Court, who quoted both Hawking and Musk, is “not one of those pessimists”.
He sees the promise of AI as being “profound and powered by astonishing improvements in processing technology and the availability of vast amounts of data from which these systems can learn”.
Earlier today, June 18, Kitchin delivered an opening speech at the “AI: decoding IP conference”, hosted in London by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
“Some have predicted that by 2025, AI and machine learning could have a global economic impact of between $5 and $7 trillion each year,” Kitchin said.
This is why AI technology is one of the four ‘grand challenges’ underpinning the UK government’s Industrial Strategy which, if met, “will put the UK at the forefront of those countries developing the industries of the future.”
However, Kitchin warned that while the public can see the advantages of AI, they do have worries, a sentiment that Chris Skidmore MP, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, agreed with.
Via a pre-recorded introduction, Skidmore said: “I’m sure that every one of you in the room this morning recognises the enormous transformative potential of AI. I think it could be truly era defining.”
He added that the popular perception of AI by the general public is often something a bit menacing, pointing to the novels of Isaac Asimov, films “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Matrix” and TV show “Black Mirror” as some of the “cautionary tales about machine thinking run amok”.
“But of course, we know that the truth is much different,” said Skidmore. He noted that AI has the potential to add up to 10% of gross domestic product over the next decade, so the UK is making the most of this opportunity by “embracing research and development like never before”.
Kitchin noted: “Many have expressed concern that jobs will be lost, but they are also anxious that AI machines may cause harm, that we will lose control of our private data, that life will become less personal, and that machines may restrict the exercise of free will.
Public engagement is required to put these fears to rest, he added, before noting that to alleviate concerns workers in the AI field will also need to provide technical solutions and develop ethical standards, preferably on an international basis and in conjunction with government.
He explained: “They must, for example, address the black box problem and consider how to make the process of decision making more transparent. Can biases be avoided? Can personal data be safely and reliably anonymised? Can we make sure that results generated by AI are robust and verifiable? Is there a risk that AI systems may collude in relation to, for example, pricing?”
In AI, the black box problem exists because it’s possible to observe incoming and outcoming data, but the internal operations (why the AI makes these specific decisions) are not very well understood.
In his own opening speech, Francis Gurry, director general at WIPO, said: “AI is fundamentally altering the human experience, with profound implications for the legal and regulatory regimes that underpin our communities. These include the IP systems that promote human innovation and creativity.”
Looking at patents, Gurry noted that 53% of all patent applications in AI have been filed since 2013, corresponding with breakthrough developments in machine learning.
For the director general, the fundamental question is what sort of IP policy settings will best favour the development of innovation in the field of AI?
The big policy challenge will be reconciling the imperative of openness to improve outcomes in the field of AI with the need for proprietary rights, explained Gurry.
“It’s a major strategic and geopolitical question thrown up by AI—how do you balance openness and closure?” he asked.
Gurry concluded: “Data is where our greatest challenges lie. We see the multiplicity of policy dimensions intersect around data … sooner or later, we are going to need to develop at the international level answers to all of the policy questions that arise from the use of data with respect to AI.”
The “AI: decoding IP” conference is taking place today and tomorrow, June 19.