In Focus - Issue 29 (Spring 2018)

er decades of research and development, arti cial intelligence (AI) is now poised to disrupt every walk of human life: from nance to healthcare, retail to the creative industries, even to areas such as the future of work and society overall. Through the combined advancement of graphics processing unit platforms, big data, machine-learning algorithms and neural networks, AI has reached a tipping point. At the same time, AI’s increasing visibility has brought a certain unease about this “existential threat”, perhaps most chillingly mooted through the “Singularity”, a hypothetical future network of super-intelligent machines through which AI will overtake humans. While to my mind, this long-term fear is unfounded, there are many near-term social issues regarding the safety, transparency, and security of AI technologies. Today, global organizations such as the Partnership on AI to Bene t People and Society, which HKUST joined in October , are rightly starting initiatives on fair, accountable, transparent and explainable (FATE) AI. These involve setting standards and policies, implementing FATE measures, designing testing criteria, and more. “The international exchange of ideas in AI in Asia must extend beyond the purely technical to discussions of social impact and ethical practices” Asia, in particular China, South Korea and Japan, are major drivers of AI innovation while the continent’s population size makes it the largest market for AI applications today and in the foreseeable future. Top Asian technology companies, such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Naver and Samsung are highly active in pushing cutting-edge AI research, with Asian consumers accepting of and open to the latest AI technology. Given such a context and the hugely competitive nature of today’s global economy, job loss to machines, the social impact of new AI products and AI’s “existential threat” are not on the minds of most Asians yet. However, the time is now for us to start to design ethical principles for AI that do take into account the culture and philosophy of Asian societies; and to motivate companies to adhere and aspire to such principles. At HKUST, we are currently pooling our expertise in the Schools of Engineering, Science and Business & Management to use AI in the development of ethical FinTech. Our Institute for Public Policy is interested in collaborating on AI policy and governance. Our School of Humanities and Social Science has experts on social impact. Together, we believe, we can make a di erence in this critical area of the future, regionally and globally. The AI future certainly promises to be an exciting and disruptive one. Let’s also ensure through responsible and ethical development in Asia it is one that truly does usher in a better way of life for all. 14 IN FOCUS The ethics behind AI Prof Pascale Fung, Electronic and Computer Engineering, is the creator of Zara the Supergirl, the world’s rst empathetic virtual robot, and HKUST’s representative to the Partnership on AI to Bene t People and Society, launched by technology giants including Amazon, Google and Facebook. HKUST is the consortium’s rst Asian institutional member. By Prof Pascale Fung Vision of the future A Faculty Column Watch the World Economic Forum video of Prof Pascale Fung discussing AI and robotics.