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Driver of Change: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

There is a growing expectation on the part of many stakeholders that artificial intelligence and machine learning will fundamentally reshape the future of the Internet and society around it.  

As one interview participant noted, there is “…a sense that with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, and data analytics we may experience a new [technology] Renaissance.”  Indeed, in 10 years time artificial intelligence and machine learning may become imbedded all forms of technology that incorporate data exchange and analysis, including the Internet and related applications.

Yet, the uncertainties raised by our community about this technology in the context of the Internet are extensive. These include the potential loss of human agency and decision-making, lack of transparency in how algorithms make decisions, discrimination, the pace of technological change outstripping governance and policy, and ethical considerations.  

Many expressed concern that the loss of control over data and choice will accelerate. Data transparency may become less clear as decisions are made around humans, but not necessarily with or by humans.

A number of participants raised concerns related to the impact on industry and employment, and therefore society, noting the consequences of automation-led change across industries and business practices, and the possible increase in inequalities and societal disruption.  

Further, artificial intelligence may have consequences for the future Internet architecture.  For example, one technologist suggested that artificial intelligence applied to network operations may result in an Internet with more “command at the centre,” which may lead to a shift away from the Internet principles of decentralized management and intelligence at the edges.  When individuals interact with systems over which they will have little control, trust in the system as a whole may also be eroded.

Participants also raised a high level of uncertainty about how governments will respond to advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning and the extent to which ethical considerations will be incorporated into technology developed by industry. 

Key Challenges and Uncertainties Raised by our Community 

  • Whether ethics for artificial intelligence and machine learning will be incorporated into technical design choices.
  • Potential loss of human agency and decision-making.
  • Lack of transparency in how intelligent machines and algorithms make decisions and evolve.
  • Potential impact of artificial intelligence on the management of the Internet itself, including pressures for more centralized control of the Internet.
  • Potential for discrimination by algorithms and machine profiling.
  • Selective delivery or availability of content and information to users.
  • Potential for greater surveillance, privacy intrusion, and profiling by private sector and government bodies.
  • Possible erosion of the value of the human and human rights.
  • Impact on jobs and the economy, including the disruption of traditional industries.

Questions from our Community:

  • In a world in which society and the economy are shaped by Internet-enabled algorithms and intelligent machines, will humans retain their agency and decision-making powers?
  • To what extent are the principles of openness and decentralized management of the Internet challenged by the growth of artificial intelligence?
  • To what extent will ethical considerations be incorporated into the design choices for artificial intelligence and machine learning?