An Ubtech Walker X Robot plays Chinese chess during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2021 at the Shanghai World Expo Center on July 8, 2021 in Shanghai, China.

VCG | VCG via Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Ensuring that AI-powered services and products are ethical and trustworthy could become a competitive strength for businesses, experts said on Wednesday.

Artificial intelligence systems are already changing companies. You’ll be able to automate repetitive tasks, analyze large amounts of data, recommend content, translate languages, and even play games.

But the current scope of things AI can do is relatively narrow. Some experts say the technology is far from becoming what is known as artificial general intelligence, or AGI – which indicates the AI’s hypothetical ability to understand or learn any human intellectual task.

However, others have pointed out that despite its current limited capabilities, AI raises a number of ethical questions – such as whether the data fed into AI programs is unbiased and whether AI can be held responsible if something goes wrong.

To build trustworthy AI systems, countries and various stakeholders need to work together, said Wonki Min, a former vice minister in South Korea’s science and technology ministry who spearheaded the country’s national AI strategy.

That means working with neighboring countries as well as industry experts, academics and ordinary people who use these technologies, Min said during a panel discussion on AI governance at the Asia Tech x Singapore conference.

Requirements for building trust

Experts previously warned that inherently biased AI programs can create serious problems and compromise people’s trust in these systems. For example, facial recognition software can contain accidental racial and gender biases that can pose a threat to a specific group of people.

Trust is fundamental to getting a technology up and running to its fullest, said Andrew Wyckoff, director of the science, technology and innovation directorate at OECD who was part of the panel.

Artificial intelligence creates competitive strength for industry.

Ieva Martinkenaite

Vice President at Telenor Research

He pointed out that there are several “essential” elements to building trust in AI systems. These include: being able to transparently explain how a program works, ensuring that the program is robust, secure, secure and accountable.

Regulators are faced with the daunting task of finding a balance to encourage further AI developments and manage the risks involved. Some researchers say it is too early for politics to impose new strict rules on technology.

For their part, the OECD Principles on AI promote artificial intelligence that is “innovative, trustworthy and respects human rights and democratic values” and makes recommendations to policy makers and other stakeholders.

A competitive advantage

According to Hiroaki Kitano, President and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, building trustworthy and ethical AI systems and the governance that surrounds them could potentially become a competitive strength for companies.

The Japanese conglomerate uses AI in a variety of its products, including cameras.

For Norwegian telecommunications giant Telenor, ethical AI is “a responsible business emerging” according to Ieva Martinkenaite, Vice President at Telenor Research. She pointed out that many of the next generation telecommunications networks will be powered by AI-embedded software and that technology will be critical to new growth opportunities.

According to Martinkenaite, this requires a set of global rules and trust principles built on top of AI that are followed not only by telecommunications companies but also by global providers to whom they outsource parts of their operations. Vendors can include stakeholders such as device vendors, software companies and service companies, he added.

“Artificial intelligence creates competitive strength for the industry,” she said.

Wonki Min, currently president of the State University of New York, Korea, added that if companies fail to meet ethical standards surrounding AI, they will not survive in the marketplace. Unless governments can create a trustworthy AI environment, they would not be maximizing the benefits of the technology.

“This is why building trustworthy AI is important in order to maximize the potential benefits of AI technology, and the way we should be doing this is a global, multi-stakeholder approach,” said Min.