Exploring the future of AI with Ana Ilievska, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Science and Thought, Bonn University

Posted by World Summit AI on Oct 3, 2023 2:55:12 PM
World Summit AI

Ahead of World Summit AI (11th-12th October 2023, Taets Art & Event Park, Amsterdam), we asked Ana Ilievska, Former Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer, Stanford University / Senior Research Fellow, Center for Science and Thought, Bonn University, her thoughts on the future of AI.

As an expert in the field, what critical challenges do you believe the AI community needs to address to ensure responsible & and ethical AI deployment?

Of course, non-biased, fair, and democratic AI should be the priority of the AI community. However, an additional, more insidious challenge that impacts everyone in possession of a WiFi connection is human-machine cognitive distribution. We need to investigate how working with AI impacts our mental processes of decision making, planning, and thinking in general so that we can ensure that future generations maintain a robust sense of autonomy in critical thinking and judgment.

How has AI impacted your specific field of expertise, and what transformative changes do you foresee in the near future?
In the humanities, the way we teach and engage in writing - the bread and butter of our craft - has undergone significant changes especially since the launch of ChatGPT. What used to require an incredible amount of effort and training can now be done in minutes thanks to AI. However, this does not ensure quality. In the future or, rather, as soon as possible, we have to come up with meaningful ways of employing generative AI that can ensure the production of quality content. Can we imagine a society in which we do not compose but rather just edit and tweak? What comes next when "writer's block" is no longer an option? How do we shift our attention to content rather than form? And how do we meaningfully integrate AI writing tools into our private and work lives?
How do you envision AI shaping various industries, and what advice would you give to businesses seeking to integrate AI into their operations?
The human element is central. AIs, as of now, do not have compassion and are not interested in individual cases. Yet what makes humans so "special" is precisely that: we thrive on difference, on particularities, and on the unpredictable. Industry always needs to take into consideration that when prediction-based mechanisms (AIs) make decisions about the most unpredictable of species (humans), great caution needs to be exercised, otherwise we risk the rise of totalitarian AI systems. This not because AIs are malevolent or even truly intelligent but because totalitarianism is the byproduct of uniformity.
In your opinion, what opportunities and challenges does AI present for job markets and workforce development worldwide?
We have to figure out what the next generation of jobs will look like. My mother worked in a factory. Now the equivalent of a factory worker is a ghost pressing a button somewhere so that an algorithm may make a decision about someone's mortgage or health care package. Such ghost workers, as the name suggests, are invisible, have no social and health security. As a society, we must address this challenge as soon as possible and become creative in envisioning what the future of jobs will be. If machines took over some of our strenuous physical tasks and now AIs can take over many of our cognitive tasks, what will we do with our bodies and minds? How can we engage them in meanongful activities that involve machines and AI? These questions, I believe, hold the key to the, should we call it "happiness" of the human species in future years.
Can you share an example of an AI application or project that has personally impressed you, and explain why it stands out?
I am particularly fond of the SAM (Socratic Artificial Mind) project by Gianfranco Caneva, Salvatore Calcagno, and Daniela Giordano (2023). This is an incredibly useful and stimulating way of combining GenAI with critical methods from the humanities: they've trained GPT-3 to engage users in the Socratic dialogue, a type of conversation whereby one's beliefs and definitions are challenged without any suggestions from the "interrogator." It is an excellent way to practice critical thinking with the help of AIs.
What measures do you believe should be taken to bridge the AI research gap between developed and developing nations to ensure equitable technological progress?
Surely conferences and workshops where knowledge exchange can take place are crucial. But I believe that the "battle for AI equality" must take place on the cultural level: literature, popular culture, films, folklore, music, art, "mentalities." Large scale projects where the particular values and cultural coordinates of developing nations are studied from the point of view of AI have to be organized over the next few decades in order to make sure that different forms of knowledge creation, retention, and distribution are considered in building AI systems. Surely, there are universal values and surely AI systems need some certainties in order to function across the board. However, as I mentioned before, to be human is to thrive on particularities and these need to be taken into account even on the level of nations and cultures if we do not want to create a future where the global North yet again is culturally dominant.
What 2 people do you admire most in the world of AI in terms of their work?
Ah, that's a hard question. I'm impressed with Noam Chomsky's level-headed responses to the ChatGPT craze and with Henry Kissinger's call to make sure that "our educational and professional systems [...] preserve a vision of humans as moral, psychological and strategic creatures uniquely capable of rendering holistic judgments" (2023). One does not need to be an AI expert to make sound judgments about the workings and future of AI. It only takes wisdom and some sense of how humans work.
What advice would you give to aspiring AI researchers and enthusiasts who want to make a positive impact in the field?
Read philosophy, read poetry, read literature! The way towards understanding AIs runs through the valley of humanity.
If you could solve any global problem in the world with AI, what would it be and why?
Bureaucracy. As the Marxist-Humanist philosophers of my birth country, Yugoslavia, once asked: "What really is a revolution if after its apparent victory a bureaucratic society can emerge?" Now we must ask: what really is the AI revolution if it will only lead to more bureaucracy? Perhaps AIs can help us pave the way towards a bureaucracy-free human society.
What inspired you to participate in this AI summit as a speaker, and what message do you hope to convey to the audience?
Over the years, as an academic working at the intersection of literature, philosophy, and technology, I noticed that humanities scholars were never or only rarely invited to speak at large industry events on technology and AI. So I decided to change this, even if with a humble contribution and presence. The key to the future of AI lies not in the hands of those who make AIs, but of those who understand it. I believe that with some wisdom, dialogue, and meaningful collaborations between industry and academia, we can all attain a better grasp of the phenomenon that has been firing up the imaginations and anxieties of humans over the past few years in particular. Makers and thinkers of AI have to come together and use their joint resources to create if not necessarily a better then surely a more meaningful future for everyone.

Global AI events calendar

World Summit AI 
11-12 October 2023
Amsterdam, Netherlands
World AI Week 
9-13 October 2023
Amsterdam, Netherlands
World Summit AI Americas
24-25 April 2024
Montréal, Canada
Intelligent Health
11-12 September 2024
Basel, Switzerland
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