March 7, 2018

Can artificial intelligence help create an equal society?

Cristina Petrescu

Executive Vice President, Public, Healthcare & Welfare, Tieto

American social scientist Scott E. Page, in his book ´The Difference´, argues that in society, corporations or even projects, diversity yields superior outcomes. Using cutting-edge research and practical examples, he has proven that difference is more important than homogeneity in developing new products and innovations.

At Tieto, we believe that artificial intelligence (AI) can not only help make our lives easier, but also help shape an equal society. AI being an artificial construct can help us, as a society, avoid many of the biases that exist among humans.

These include biases such as race, gender, creed, societal background and even geography. In a smarter society, AI has the potential to reduce inequality, ensuring that services and rewards are disbursed fairly and equally while encouraging diversity.

Fostering inclusion

So how exactly can AI help in building this kind of diversity? One obvious way would be to use AI to trawl through human resource databases to select the right candidates. Where a human operator may fall prey to certain biases or even be inclined to think in a certain way, AI will be able to disregard such prejudices and select candidates by their ability to do a job well. For this to succeed, organizations must be willing to accept and use such technologies to make these decisions. In a smarter, data-driven society, the biggest obstacle will not be the technology, it will be the challenge of getting the organizational leadership in place to steer it in a new direction.

In this future, inclusion will be the core benefit of living in a smarter society that is augmented by AI. And this inclusion goes beyond just appearance or background, it involves getting people involved in society, enabling them to be full and productive members.

Take the case of healthcare and welfare services for instance. AI can be used to seek out vulnerable sections of the populace and identify what services they need while suggesting the measures that might be taken to help them improve themselves. This will help governments design training and care programs to uplift those sections and give them a better quality of life.

One practical example where this can help is the current wave of migration seen in many parts of the world. Many migrants try to integrate into societies, but the sheer pressure on the administrative system can mean that they have a tough time getting access to the resources needed to do this. AI can analyze data on migrant communities and provide administrators with the data needed to understand who among them are missing out. This can be in the form of training, counselling and even access to basic healthcare.

Such inclusion also applies to other sections of society including the elderly. In the Nordics especially, the aging population is rising. AI-augmented healthcare and welfare, coupled with smart sensors can result in effective treatment for these people in the privacy of their own homes. Such services will be disbursed faster and more efficiently, helping them interact with society more fully. This type of value-based health and social care has been pioneered by Tieto, in partnership with the city of Espoo, in Finland, with the ultimate aim being to develop smarter and more open services.

AI and ethical design

As we speak, AI is being used in our healthcare and welfare services, our banking systems and even on social media. And at its current rate of evolution, more new applications are being found for it every single day. Tieto’s Taneli Tikka has written a fascinating account of what we can expect in an AI-fueled world and we recommend giving it a read to truly understand what we are in for.

With all these potential applications lying in wait, there is no limit to what AI can do to help improve our lives and build an equal world. However, to do this, one must also ensure that the AI itself without human bias. While this may sound like a paradox, at the end of the day, AI operates based on the parameters fed into it by humans, and unconscious biases may have crept in.

To combat this, ethical standards must be incorporated and maintained in designing artificial intelligence. The good news is that various universities, think-tanks and technological companies are working on developing exactly this. However, to keep pace with the rate at which AI applications are evolving, these efforts must be prioritized.

After all, AI has given us an unprecedented chance to build a smarter society, an equal society and we must ensure that this time, we do it right.

What does a smarter society mean?

Tieto’s goal is to utilize our expertise in digitalization to continue shaping a smarter society, one which anticipates the needs of the people in every phase of their lives. For more insights and examples on how we are doing this, visit Tieto.com/smartersociety.

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