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Emerging tech like artificial intelligence and robotics need better governance to realize full potential

Not an event goes by without us talking about the impact of technology, and terms like IoT (internet of things), cloud, big data, AI (artificial intelligence) are widely touted as being the ‘next big things’. For example, we talk about billions of connected devices enabling smart decisions, or robots taking over many types of jobs in the future, or how artificial intelligence will solve lots of complex challenges. It’s no surprise then that governments and industry thought leaders are engaged in conversations on the consequences of having all this technology integrated into everything.

Research published this month by the World Economic Forum says that for emerging technologies to achieve their full potential to improve human life and address global challenges, action is needed to make sure their use is governed properly.

This was echoed by a survey of the world’s top technology investors at the Web Summit in Lisbon, which said governments are failing to prepare for the impact of artificial intelligence – which is set to destroy millions of jobs, according to a poll of the. The survey at the event found that 53 percent agreed that it was “inevitable that artificial intelligence will destroy millions of jobs”. The vast majority of investors (93%) said governments were not prepared for the impact of AI on jobs.

The World Economic Forum research was part of a survey of nearly 900 experts that was used to compile its Global Risks report. When asked which emerging technologies need better governance, two technologies were clear outliers: artificial intelligence and robotics, followed by biotechnologies. The third technology most in need of governance is energy capture, storage and transmission.

Top 12 emerging technologies in need of better governance:

  1. Artificial intelligence and robotics
  2. Biotechnologies
  3. Energy capture, storage and transmission
  4. Blockchain and distributed ledger
  5. Geoengineering
  6. Neurotechnologies
  7. Ubiquitous presence of linked sensors
  8. New computing technologies
  9. Advanced materials and nanomaterials
  10. Virtual and augmented realities
  11. Space technologies
  12. 3D printing

“Despite the great promise that new technologies hold for improving life in the future, it’s clear that more work needs to be done in order to allow them to reach their full potential. This doesn’t just mean managing risks attached to them, but putting in place regulatory environments to allow markets and people to fully leverage the emerging opportunities,” said Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz, head of global competitiveness and risks and member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

“Rapid advances in AI have revealed current governance and control mechanisms to be at best inadequate to meet accompanying risks. New structures will not only need to meet existing challenges, but also be fast and adaptable enough to keep up with further innovation,” said John Drzik, president, global risk and specialties, Marsh (MMC), USA.

“Governing these new technologies requires a collective and diverse set of skills and expertise. It is crucial that regulatory stakeholders understand the technologies as well as the underlying and interconnected risks embedded in each step of technological evolution, from design to implementation. Leveraging on multi-stakeholder platforms such as the World Economic Forum helps overcome the knowledge gaps to derive maximum benefit from these new technologies. This will also have a positive impact on economy and society over time,” said John Scott, chief risk officer of commercial insurance, Zurich Insurance Group, Switzerland.

The Global Risks report was developed with Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group, and the findings were announced at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai, where over 700 experts convened to discuss and develop ideas that will prepare the world for a future that is already being shaped by new technologies and what the WEF calls the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.