Getting beyond what AI is to what it should stand for…

There is a psychological phenomenon known as semantic satiation, in which ongoing repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning. It is not hard to argue the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) is suffering from its overuse and this poses a not so artificial challenge from a communications perspective.

With so many tech vendors sticking an AI badge on their latest offering and it seemingly the driving force for everything – journalists and technology buyers have a tough job cutting through the noise to distinguish the truly innovative stories around these transformative technologies.

In a positive move however, there seems to be a growing focus to get beyond what the technology is, to understanding and defining what it should stand for and what its purpose must be.

The past two years have seen countries across the world compete in a race to become the global leader in AI, with comprehensive strategies and investment priorities laid out (this politics+AI medium article provides a great summary). More recently, there have been clear steps and positive initiatives to ensure the direction of AI strategies are anchored to firmer ethical and sustainable standards.

  • An AI Sustainability Center was recently established in Stockholm – a multidisciplinary center for responsible and purpose-driven technology. Its mission: “to take a leading role in developing sustainable AI frameworks and strategies… to better understand the risks and possible outcomes from a societal perspective… and keep humanity and fairness at the core of AI applications…as a force for good.”
  • France has been actively engaged in defining the ethical and legal framework around AI application. The government launched its “AI for Humanity” programme coordinated by Inria, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. As part of the recent programme, four academic networks (called 3IA institutes) across the country will work on healthcare, self-driving cars, energy and safety issues.
  • The UK’s AI Council and Office for AI (OAI) also recently outlined key actions including the establishment of 20 AI Centres of Doctoral Training in UK universities as well as a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, that will be consulting throughout 2019 with the OAI on ways of establishing “data trusts”.

These major steps being taken to help raise the standard, increase the legal framework for AI application and improve awareness of what AI stands for is surely a positive for those start-ups, scale-ups and established businesses that seek to realise AI as a genuine force for good. It can help in building confidence amongst consumers and an opportunity for AI companies to align communications more closely to a broader, purpose-led strategy.

We live in a data-driven world, with society connected in ways previously unimaginable and there are many instant benefits to all areas of life; how we work, live and play. However, this growing use of personal data and AI systems, pose ethical risks that are difficult to predict and understand.

Telling the broader AI story and highlighting the genuine benefits to businesses and consumers will be a crucial part of the debate. Communicating the changing face of AI and the opportunities this presents for individuals, organisations, sectors as well as the greater good, alongside clear examples and case studies to demonstrate this new reality, will be key to delivering positive stories for people to engage with.

As countries and companies compete to nurture and attract diverse talent into the AI arena – a key part of this will be raising awareness and communicating clearly how it can and will make a positive difference. The people and new skills needed to drive AI development forward, are far more likely to buy into this sense of purpose, knowing what they are contributing to society, than they ever will to simply the technology alone.

By getting beyond what AI is and focusing on what it stands for will be essential for effective communications moving forward. It will also help ensure that its inevitable repetition as a term, doesn’t result in it continuing to temporarily lose its meaning.

Written by our Business & Technology team

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