This week, Amazon drew widespread condemnation for selling its Rekognition AI-powered recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. According to the ACLU, at least one local law enforcement agency used the technology, which can recognize as many as 100 faces in a single image, to build a database of more than 300,000 mugshots that its deputies can query with a smartphone.
The mistrust in facial recognition systems is well-placed, in this case. A House oversight committee hearing revealed that the algorithms used to identify matches are wrong about 15 percent of the time, and studies by the MIT Media Lab and others have found that AI is susceptible to racial biases.
Also this week, the Indian government announced that a task force investigating autonomous tanks, weaponry, aerial vehicles, and other defense systems will issue recommendations to the heads of the country’s armed forces in the coming months.
Despite the negativity of the recent news cycle, though, it’s important to keep in mind that AI is merely a tool, not a weapon, and that condemning it wholesale ignores its potential for good.
Recent advancements in health care AI are especially promising. University College London Hospitals, one of the largest hospitals in London, announced this week that it will use AI to improve emergency room admittance rates. “The development of smart technologies to analyze great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said at a speech in Macclesfield.
And AI is catalyzing a startup boom in countries like China, which contributed 18 billion yuan ($2.82 billion) to the industry last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Technology. By 2030, machine learning is expected to generate $16 trillion for the world economy, an official with the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector said on Tuesday.
Any powerful technology comes with responsibility, and the sooner world and tech industry leaders agree on safeguards to prevent AI’s misuse, the better off we’ll be.
Thanks for reading,
AI Staff Writer
P.S. See clips from Theresa May’s speech about health care in this newscast:
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