News In Context

Positive AI Futures And How To Get There

Instead of trying to predict what lies ahead a new insight report  focuses on defining desirable AI futures and inspiring leaders to take the necessary steps to make them a reality. A recent survey of leading computer scientists claimed there is a 50% chance that machines will outperform humans at every task within 45 years. While there is disagreement on the timeline, “one thing is clear, if we so much as entertain the notion that this kind of outcome is possible, then it ought to demand our attention,” says the World Economic Forum report, which was compiled with the help of 150 thought leaders from around the globe.  If leaders are not proactive “we could quickly find ourselves adrift without a compass, buffeted by different events as they unfold, passively swept along into an unknown future by the currents of technological change and economic forces,” says the report.  It describes different possible AI futures and the challenges involved in achieving them.

The report, which was compiled by respected economists and academics such as Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science And Director of The Center For Human Compatible AI, UC Berkeley, Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab at the Institute of Human-Centered AI, and Andrew McAfee, codirector of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy at the MIT Sloan School of Management, outlines these possible futures, among others.

Realigned Companies

The Vision: Large companies focus on developing and using AI that benefits humanity and do so without holding excessive economic or political power.

What It Would Take: Changing corporate ownership structures and updating antitrust policies.

The Challenges: Overcoming current dynamics which lead to a concentration of power and wealth.

Flexible Labor Markets

The Vision: New jobs are created that did not exist before. Human creativity and hands-on support enable people to find new roles.

What It Would Take: Improving educational and retraining opportunities as well as strengthening social safety nets for those who would otherwise be less well-off due to automation.

Challenges: More education may not be enough to solve persistent unemployment.

Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence

The Vision: Society decides against excessive automation and labor substitution. Business leaders, computer scientists and polic y makers choose to develop technologies that increase rather than decrease the demand for workers. Society finds the “sweet spot” that allows workers and machines to work together.

What It Would Take: Incentives that would encourage companies to develop human-centric AI, such as taxing automation where necessary.

Challenges: Difficulties, during the development phase, in distinguishing between technologies that will ultimately complement human workers and those that will substitute for them; overhauling the tax structure, which currently incentivizes companies to automate by placing a heavier tax burden on labor rather than on capital.

Shared Economic Prosperity

The Vision: The economic benefits of technological progress are widely shared around the world. The global economy is 10 times larger because AI has boosted productivity. Humans can do more and achieve more by sharing this prosperity.

What It Would Take: Possibilities include the creation of a global tax regime; improving insurance against unemployment; empowering international institutions to distribute the benefits of AI adoption.

The Challenges: The very uneven impact of technological progress; the progressive disappearance of middle-class occupations; the difficulties of achieving international cooperation.

To read more download the report.



Gojek Forms JV With Local Energy Firm To Launch Electric Vehicles In Indonesia

Gojek , an  on-demand multi-service platform and digital payment technology group based in Jakarta, and energy firm TBS Energi Utama have formed a joint venture called Electrum, which will focus on the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs)  in Indonesia. The joint venture aims to build infrastructure for two-wheeler EVs in Indonesia, including batteries, charging stations, and electric motorcycles. It also plans to provide a loan scheme that allows Gojek’s riders to buy e-bikes and pay for it via installment. Earlier this month, Gojek also announced a partnership with Taiwan-based battery station maker Gogoro, e-bike manufacturer Gesit, and state-owned energy company Pertamina. The deal allows Gojek to deploy 500 EVs in Jakarta, along with several battery-swapping posts in Pertamina’s gas stations.Gojek said data from the pilot project will be used to develop EV tech and infrastructure in Indonesia and help its own company to reduce its carbon footprint as it seeks to achieve zero emissions by 2030.

China’s Baidu, Approved For RoboTaxi Services in Beijing

Chinese tech group Baidu and self-driving startup have won approval to launch paid driverless robotaxi services that will see the firms deploy not more than 100 vehicles in an area in China’s capital Beijing. Baidu said in a statement that this would be its Apollo Go service’s first commercial deployment on open roads. Customers will be able to hail one of the daily service’s 67 cars at more than 600 pick-up and drop-off points in both commercial and residential areas, it said. It will charge fares similar to the level of premium ride-hailing services in China, a Baidu spokesperson added.


Consortium Of Japanese Firms To Test Digital Currency

A consortium of roughly 70 Japanese firms, including the country’s three mega-banks, said it aims to launch a yen-based digital currency in fiscal 2022 after beginning trials in coming months.The digital currency, tentatively called “DCJPY”, will be backed by bank deposits and use a common platform to speed up large-scale fund transfers and settlement among companies, Kazuhiro Tokita, chief executive of cryptocurrency exchange DeCurret which is leading the consortium, said at a November 24 news conference.

Stripe Launches Online to Offline Terminal In Europe

Stripe is bringing its payment infrastructure to the physical world with the launch of its point-of-sale Terminal product in Ireland, France, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. Platform and marketplace businesses like Shopify, and Indy Cinema Group are already onboard with the Terminal, alongside Internet-first retailers such as Glossier and Warby Parker. The Terminal provides a bridge between online and offline payments, providing a unified omnichannel payments platform for merchants that want to manage e-commerce payments alonsgide in-person sales. Terminal features a set of flexible SDKs and APIs for creating a fully custom checkout experience and card readers that are out-of-the-box ready for mobile wallets and contact and contactless EMV payments.


Carrefour Teams With AiFi To Launch Cashier-less Convenience Store That Creates A Unique Avatar For Each Customer

French retail giant Carrefour  announced the company has teamed up with AiFi, a maker of machine-vision powered checkout tech, to launch a cashierless convenience store called Carrefour Flash. Unlike Amazon Go or other cashierless platforms that require an app, smart shopping basket, or biometric check-in, AiFi’s technology utilizes a network of cameras on the retailer’s ceiling that monitors a shopper as they move through the store and pick items up off the shelves for purchase. The computer vision’s AI creates a keypoint tracking system that creates a unique digital avatar for each customer. The system identifies each avatar by measuring the unique distance between the customer’s elbow and their hand. Because the system doesn’t require a unique biometric identifier such as a palm, facial or retinal scan, it ensures customer privacy despite using biometric tracking.As the customer picks up items around the store, the AiFi system creates a virtual shopping cart. The system utilizes a network of 60 HD cameras and over 2000 sensors built into store shelves to track a shopper’s activity and assign it to their avatar. Once done, the customer walks up to a payment terminal to see their shopping basket and total bill within a few seconds.

Traditional Retailers Take A Page Out Of Amazon’s Playbook

In the ramp up to Black Friday the Financial Times ran a story about how Walmart, Target, Staples, Macy’s and Express are among hundreds of retailers that have opened up their websites to outside vendors in recent years. The aim is to drive web traffic by increasing the assortment of products available on the company’s website without the inventory risks. It can be a lucrative way to ramp up online growth. Third-party sellers cover most costs by holding the inventory in their own warehouses and shipping items to customers. The host site typically takes a 5% to 15% commission on the sale. Companies can also sell merchants advertising, delivery services or even lines of credit. All are looking to emulate the success of Amazon’s third-party Marketplace. Launched in 2000, the business now accounts for about 60% of Amazon’s online sales volume. It generated $80.5 billion in revenue for Amazon last year.


A Microbial Ink Could Be A Crucial Building Material For Sustainable Housing

Researchers described a recipe for a programmable, microbial ink in a study published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. The microbial ink, which flows like toothpaste under pressure and can be 3D-printed into various tiny shapes — a circle, a square and a cone — all of which hold their form and glisten like Jell-O. The material is still being developed, but the authors suggest that the ink could be a crucial renewable building material, able to grow and heal itself and ideal for constructing sustainable homes on Earth and in space.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.