Data, Algorithms & Artificial Intelligence: Where is AI Innovation Taking Society?

Safeguards need to be put in place so artificial intelligence can be used safely for everybody says Catherine Saez of Intellectual Property Watch reporting on events at the Artificial Intelligence summit hosted at ITU, the UN specialized agency for Information & Communications Technologies

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Story Transcript

LYNN FRIES: This is the Real News Network. I’m Lynn Fries in Geneva. In this program, we feature an intellectual property news story on artificial intelligence. Reported by our guest, Catherine Saez, a senior writer at Geneva Base Intellectual Property Watch, Catherine Saez reports the news on international, intellectual property across a wide range of topics. For example, the interaction of the global IP system and climate change and the rights of farmers to seeds. And with breakneck speed, news of IP licensing agreements, like for example, faster, cheaper gene editing techniques. The UN system here in Geneva is a key forum for policy negotiations over these topics and far more. Catherine Saez is a regular inside the corridors of key UN institutions, where she closely follows and reports on IP news in the making.

The artificial intelligence summit featured in this program was hosted by ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communications technologies. Here’s a clip from the summit website.

Clip Narrator: On the industrial side, the car industry is taking the lead, using AI to advance the day when autonomous vehicles become a reality. The know-how is already moving fast. Audi is testing it’s driverless cars on racetracks, but the company insists, it’s humans who will keep their hands at the steering wheel of ethics and regulation.

LYNN FRIES: Please join me in welcoming our guest, Catherine Saez to the Real News Network.

CATHERINE SAEZ: Thank you.

LYNN FRIES: I’m delighted to be able to talk to you about the artificial intelligence summit. I read your reports. Briefly comment first on this commitment of yours to intellectual property and how you came to work at IP Watch.

CATHERINE SAEZ: I came to IP Watch almost by chance, and as I progressed into my self-learning of the subject, I discovered it was a fascinating subject, and the people don’t really realize how much IP is impacting their lives in many, many ways. Because intellectual property rights cover a lot of things like patents, trademark, copyright, industrial designs, so basically everything that we touch, at one point or the other, has been impacted by intellectual property.

LYNN FRIES: Seen in the chart of international patent applications alone. Ownership of intellectual property rights has taken off. As these rights got international protections enforced by international trade and investment agreements. Critics say the real beneficiaries of the international IP system are multinational corporations. What’s your take on that?

CATHERINE SAEZ: I am not a specialist on this kind of question, but it would make sense that, of course, big companies have a) the power to innovate, and they will protect their innovation with patents. And they are the only ones who are able to defend their patents, because if you’re a small inventor, and you file for a patent, I don’t think you have many chances of enforcing your patent rights if somebody infringes on your patents, because the legal cost involved would be much too high.

LYNN FRIES: Now turning to the recent Artificial Intelligence for Good Global Summit, you said that for AI enthusiasts, the future is bright. What led you to write that?

CATHERINE SAEZ: Well the summit opened with people really involved in the technology of artificial intelligence and presented artificial intelligence as the problem solver of the problems of the world. And one speaker said that the computer and the global computer capabilities are going to be exponentially developed in the years to come and people will be walking around with mini-computers in their pocket, able to do whatever they want, 3D printing, gene editing even. Which was a bit like science fiction to me, but he presented it as a really tangible reality. Some others, like a person from Audi made a case for autonomous cars and said that they would provide us with better security because most car accidents are actually man-made. It’s always the fault of the driver or somebody else. So human error leads to car accidents, and autonomous car would protect us from this.

So the first part of the summit was really showing the world that AI might be the solution for absolutely every problem in the world, because it’s a collective wisdom that would find solutions.

LYNN FRIES: The summit website included a statement that innovation in artificial intelligence will help solve, and this is a quote, “humanity’s grand challenges by capitalizing on the unprecedented quantities of data now being generated.” Comment on the importance of data in this discussion.

CATHERINE SAEZ: Yeah, somebody said at the summit that data was the new currency. And a lot of specialist experts during the summit also said that there’s no artificial intelligence without data. There’s no such thing as artificial intelligence. It’s just a collection of data that allows scientists to make algorithms that will provide some kind of artificial intelligence. But in order to do this, an enormous amount of data needs to be collected. And we all know that in our everyday life that, already, our data is being collected for a number of uses.

And Jaron Lanier was talking at WIPO last year and was talking about artificial intelligence and was presenting the case of a translators, the automated translated services, and he said at that time that in fact, what happened was the people writing the algorithm to engineer those translation services actually all the translations from the UN translators, because it’s publicly accessible. And used this data to engineer assistant. So he asking the question whether those translators should be rewarded for their work, having participating in the elaboration of an algorithm that potentially could make a lot of money.

LYNN FRIES: And at the summit, what pushback did AI enthusiasts run into?

CATHERINE SAEZ: There were different kind of pushback. The first pushback was from the director general of the WHO, who said that’s all very nice, but you do realize that we’re talking many developing countries are lacking basic electricity or running water. So what can artificial intelligence can do for them when they’re lacking the bear necessity in public health? And she was calling for some kind of framework and really in-depth study of what is involved with the proliferation of artificial intelligence even in public health. And even if she said it could help by accelerating the screening of new molecules, for example.

There’s other people said, that the European Union apparently is thinking about some kind of regulation of robotics. What ethical dimension are we missing when we just follow the scientific progresses? We need to stop and think about possible consequences on ethics, and on freedom. There’s a recent case in Germany where the German government asked a toy, I think it was a doll, called Kyle or something like this, will be removed from the market because it was an Internet connected doll, which in fact, the people thought it was spying on the children.

So there are all kind of safeguards that need to be put in place, so that artificial intelligence can be used safely for everybody. And somebody else said that the information technologies had created a divide between people in countries and between countries themselves, and he was saying that AI might do exactly the same. So instead of closing the divide, make it wider.

LYNN FRIES: We’re going to have to leave it there in this conversation with Catherine Saez of IP Watch. Catherine Saez, thank you.

CATHERINE SAEZ: Thank you.

LYNN FRIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.