AI can enhance Australia's wellbeing: report

Monday, 12 August, 2019

AI can enhance Australia's wellbeing: report

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the capability to enhance Australia’s wellbeing, lift the economy, improve environmental sustainability and create a more equitable, inclusive and fair society.

That’s according to a new report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), written by a panel of experts and titled ‘The Effective and Ethical Development of Artificial Intelligence — An Opportunity to Improve our Wellbeing’.

AI is the collection of interrelated technologies, such as natural language processing, speech recognition, computer vision, machine learning and automated reasoning, that give machines the ability to perform tasks and solve problems that would otherwise require human cognition. The panel urges Australians to reflect on what AI-enabled future the nation wants, as the future impact of AI on our society will be ultimately determined by decisions taken today.

“With careful planning, AI offers great opportunities for Australia, provided we ensure that the use of the technology does not compromise our human values,” said Professor Toby Walsh, Co-Chair of the ACOLA expert working group. “As a nation, we should look to set the global example for the responsible adoption of AI.”

Launching the report, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel emphasised that nations have choices.

“This report was commissioned by the National Science and Technology Council, to develop an intellectual context for our human society to turn to in deciding what living well in this new era will mean,” Dr Finkel said.

“What kind of society do we want to be? That is the crucial question for all Australians, and for governments as our elected representatives.”

The findings recognise the importance of having a national strategy; a community awareness campaign; safe and accessible digital infrastructure; a responsive regulatory system; and a diverse and highly skilled workforce.

“By bringing together Australia’s leading experts from the sciences, technology and engineering, humanities, arts and social sciences, this ACOLA report comprehensively examines the key issues arising from the development and implementation of AI technologies, and importantly places the wellbeing of society at the centre of any development,” said Professor Hugh Bradlow, Chair of the ACOLA Board.

The project was supported by the Australian Research Council, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The full report can be downloaded from the ACOLA website.

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