Rapidly developing, transformational technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to drive fundamental change. But in the wrong hands, they could prove to be damaging and harmful. It’s time to establish an open-minded and serious approach to ensuring such technologies are safe for the future.
Humanity’s reliance on powerful new technologies has never been greater. In the wake of the pandemic, video-conferencing, remote hybrid working models, real-time information, artificial intelligence and the increasing pace of medical advances are just some of the many examples of tech-enablement that make our daily lives run smoother. But at what cost? Trust is critical if technology is to be used in making life-enhancing or life-saving decisions, whether in a medical or work setting. When it comes to artificial intelligence, for example, the prospect of unconscious bias and unexplained conclusions is alarming. Take technologies used for recruitment and reviewing resumes—these may harbor the same unconscious bias as human recruiters. Artificial intelligence could also create a greater digital divide between those who have access to it and those who do not, due to economic circumstances. As we rapidly adopt more digital technologies—while society lurches from the pandemic to a climate crisis and the war in Ukraine rages on—the establishment of ethics and standards around the development, access and use of technology is crucial. “Ultimately, we want to move toward a sustainable society,” says Jun Sawada, Chairman of global technology and business solutions firm, NTT. “The challenge of the pandemic has dramatically changed our lives, while at the same time natural disasters are becoming larger in scale. With continuing crises, we need to take a broader, more holistic view beyond the realms of science alone.” In this context, a sustainable approach to innovation and improved knowledge-sharing will help support humanity when faced with unexpected or unprecedented challenges.
Collaborating for the greater good lies at the heart of NTT’s strategy. The company’s Global Sustainability Charter1, unveiled in November 2021, includes a roadmap for promoting sustainable initiatives to bring about growth and prosperity, and address social issues at the same time. The Charter is underpinned by the principle of “Self as We”—in which collaboration and contributing to a better world combine to bring greater harmony between people, nature, objects and technologies. A recent example of NTT’s determination to achieve this ambition and develop a safe, secure and resilient society is its membership of the AI Council at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), established in October 20222. Mr. Sawada was elected as a member alongside 16 other high-profile global leaders from technology, business and academia including Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Vice Chair, and Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO of Accenture. While governments around the world tighten up their AI policies and legislative initiatives that will impact global growth and innovation, the CSIS AI Council seeks to lay the foundations that will allow the technology to be used for good and at scale. “AI is transforming the global economy and has the potential to contribute enormously to the development of a more innovative, prosperous and sustainable world,” says Mr. Smith, who is Co-Chair of the AI Council. “The CSIS AI Council brings together an extraordinary group of leaders to etch out what corporate responsibility, international collaboration and effective governance on AI looks like—not only in principle, but in practice3 .”
Mr. Sawada hopes the CSIS AI Council can provide an actionable way forward for international cooperation regarding AI and ethics. “While AI technology has great potential to help realize a sustainable society, there are various issues such as accuracy and quality control,” he says. “So it is essential to develop effective AI governance to provide safe and reliable AI.” Retaining an open mind with regard to AI and other powerful new technologies will be essential for shaping tomorrow, Mr. Sawada adds. “We will discuss the matter from various angles with global leaders in industry and academia, and cooperate in building a collaborative framework for AI governance toward the realization of a more affluent society in which humans and AI coexist.” NTT’s collaborative approach encourages positive connections across the board, including with powerful technologies such as AI. By strengthening such mutually beneficial ties, NTT aims to build a more sustainable future.
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