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3 perspectives on AI’s global impact

The World Trade Center Institute's AGILE Innovation Series looked at how artificial intelligence is shaping business, health and policy.

Jane Otai of Jhpiego speaks at WTCI's AGILE Innovation Series. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by World Trade Center Institute's Wally Pinkard.
Is the future of AI going to be Wall-e or Terminator?

That was one of the questions posed last week at the first session of World Trade Center Institute’s (WTCI) AGILE Innovation Series. The first of four sessions in the 2019 series, “The Key to Growth: Innovations in Artificial Intelligence” was held March 14 at the Stravos Niarchos Parkway Theater and featured speakers from Mind Over Machines, Jhpiego, and Hogan Lovells, who took a deep dive into the impact that artificial intelligence is having on global business.

Tim Kulp, vice president of innovation and strategy at Mind Over Machines, kicked off the session highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities artificial intelligence creates, and the disruptive effect it is having on businesses across the world. Successful business will use AI to enhance and, in many cases, rethink their business processes. Firms that do not adapt may struggle to remain in business, he said.

The same challenges apply to workers and the transition will challenge businesses and governments to prepare the workforce. Technological innovation has been found to be a net benefit to job numbers, but there is a mismatch between existing and necessary job skills, and we are currently not doing enough to plug the skill gaps, Kulp said. Drawing an example from the past, he described how lamplighters’ jobs were made obsolete by the introduction of electric streetlights.

“Does AI really make you obsolete, or does it give you the opportunity to rethink how you are doing business to say, we can do better and we can change who we are now.” he said.

Next up, Jhpeigo Senior Program Advisor Jane Otai and Technology Officer Erica Troncoso shared how the Johns Hopkins-affiliated international nonprofit is using AI to enhance health outcomes in the developing world. Using the example of Wanja, a 17-year-old from Nairobi, Otai outlined the many challenges faced by middle class women in Kenya. Wanja’s most direct interaction with AI is in the form of chatbots that can help direct her to medical resources, serve her relevant healthcare information and provide the nudges needed to encourage Wanja to seek the care she needs. Medical providers are using AI-based solutions to analyze and track disease trends, manage medical supply chains, and enhance medical diagnostics and image interpretation, Otai said.

Mark Brennan, a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells, shared some of AI’s legal and ethical challenges, of which there is no shortage. He noted how regulators have a difficult time keeping up with changes in technology, and when they do act, it can be with a heavy hand. Thus, regulations pertaining to AI are sparse. What does exist tends to target data, which is a key input, but not the technology itself. However, as the technology evolves and becomes more widespread, regulators will be compelled to act, he said. Using the example of social media, Brennan noted that regulations are just starting to come into place, more than a decade after the technology’s widespread adoption.

WTCI’s AGILE Innovation Series seeks to find answers to the most challenging questions facing today’s international business leaders as it empowers globally minded leaders with new ideas and valuable connections. By leveraging its network, the World Trade Center Institute brings together speakers on the forefront of these issues who are making a global impact. Next up in May, the series will tackle how companies are embracing innovations in sustainability to enhance their bottom line while helping to save our planet and protect our population.


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