AI’s Potential to Deepen Inequalities: Balancing Progress with Societal Concerns

AI’s Potential to Deepen Inequalities: Balancing Progress with Societal Concerns

March 13, 2024 Off By Sharp Media

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, often lauded for their cutting-edge capabilities, are facing increasing scrutiny as experts warn about the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and biases. The discourse unfolded prominently at the recent Web Summit in Doha, marking the first time the technology conference took place in the Middle East. While entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders discussed the immense potential of AI, concerns about its impact on societal disparities loomed large.

Ayo Tometi, co-creator of the US-based antiracist movement Black Lives Matter, emphasized the risk of biases being programmed into technologies, citing the example of predictive policing tools. These tools, utilizing location-based algorithms or drawing on personal data, have disproportionately impacted people of color, particularly Black individuals in the United States. Tometi highlighted the urgent need to address racism and anti-Black racism within the criminal justice system before deploying such technologies.

The assumption of neutrality in these technologies becomes problematic when they exhibit biases, leading to faulty outcomes. Tometi highlighted cases where individuals have been wrongly incarcerated due to inaccurate facial scans, emphasizing the normalization of bias and discrimination through these technologies.

In addition to amplifying biases, experts expressed concerns about AI technologies contributing to the global digital divide. Alaa Abdulaal, from the Saudi Arabia-based Digital Cooperation Organization, urged countries to shift from being consumers to producers of AI, emphasizing the importance of upskilling opportunities to bridge the divide. Jihad Tayara, CEO of UAE-based firm Evoteq, countered this perspective, noting that while funding availability influences the race for AI supremacy, consumption worldwide is narrowing the digital gap by providing better access to connectivity and affordable cloud computing services.

However, Tayara acknowledged that some nations still lag behind in AI production, citing his company’s advanced AI analytics as an example not yet replicable in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the challenges, nations worldwide are increasingly enthusiastic about AI’s potential due to its economic impact and geopolitical applications, according to Frank Long, vice president at investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.

Long predicted a multilayered and dynamic race in the development of AI technologies, emphasizing competition at each layer of the technological stack. This perspective suggests that the race for AI supremacy will be complex, involving various participants and initiatives globally.

As AI continues to advance, it is essential to strike a balance between technological progress and addressing societal concerns. Acknowledging and rectifying biases, ensuring inclusivity, and fostering global cooperation are crucial steps in harnessing the full potential of AI while minimizing its potential to deepen existing inequalities.