Announcing the new OECD.AI Expert Group on AI Futures
“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. This simple phrase, coined by scientist and futurist Roy Amara and known as Amara’s Law, seems to hold true over and over again. Looking back on fairly recent technological innovation, from smartphones to social media networks, it seems impossible to have foreseen the wildly transformative ways these technologies have impacted our lives and society. However, that’s exactly what we must endeavour to do in order to actively shape how technologies evolve and to help ensure their effects are positive. This has perhaps never been as important as now in the face of breakneck advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), which could be one of the most transformative developments in human history.
Exploring potential future risks and benefits of AI
Most AI policy discussions focus on the challenges we already face today, and understandably so. Present-day issues are critical and real – they impact our lives here and now, with policy makers struggling to keep pace with change. Work on some existing issues has been underway at the OECD for some time, including work by the OECD Expert Groups on Risk and Accountability, Incidents, and Compute & Climate. But responsible policymaking also requires us to anticipate and explore possible future developments and plan accordingly.
The implications of potential future developments in AI are fiercely debated and remain uncertain. Still, research and experts have raised concerns about escalating or emerging risks of bias, discrimination, surveillance, lack of accountability, untrustworthy AI systems, job displacement and mass manipulation. More generally, many experts are concerned about the ability to ensure increasingly general AI systems are safe and aligned with human values, prevent the misuse of advanced AI systems, and address other negative societal impacts. On a brighter note, future benefits from AI may be just as great, with the potential to address complex issues, improve health and education outcomes, and accelerate scientific progress. Diverging expert opinions suggest that the impact of future developments in AI varies widely, ranging from a golden age of humanity to an extinction-level risk. The table below lists just a few future potential AI benefits and risks being explored through analysis at the OECD.