A couple of months ago the internet went berserk with the news of Facebook pulling the plug out on two bots, which started communicating in their own language. Imaginations and headlines went wild with the possibilities: malicious AI is taking over, the doomsday is here with the bots of the Apocalypse. Although the real story was quite different (the bots were turned off because they were designed to communicate with humans, not with each other, thus they were not delivering the expected results), the outcome was simply panic.What we can learn from this is that humans are afraid of their own creation – the artificial intelligence.

AI can transform gargantuan amounts of complex information into insight. It has the potential to present solutions, reveal secrets and solve problems. But before we get to the good part, we need to take care of development and deployment. In order to be able to use them, AI systems need to have the same ethical principles, moral values, professional codes, and social norms we follow. Some of us are excited about the opportunities AI provides, others are suspicious. To become widespread, AI needs to be designed in a way that allows people to understand it, use it and trust it. To ensure the acceptance of AI, public policies should help society deal with AI’s inevitable failures and facilitate adaptation.

Where are we now?

Policies can help AI’s progress or hamper it. We are witnessing a shift in the bottleneck to using AI products from technology to policymaking. Regulation is slow to respond to the cost of compliance or the adoption and development of innovations. Thorough and well-thought policies can influence the rate and direction of innovation by creating stimulus for the private sector. In order to grasp the current situation, we will take a look at the major players in AI technologies whose decisions will be influencing the future of policy making. Yes, you guessed it: China and USA (Europe also deserves a mention). If a country with AI research expertise wishes to participate as a producer it should be ready for tense labor market competition from the U.S. and China.


On October 12, 2016, President Obama’s Executive Office published two reports that laid out its plans for the future of artificial intelligence. The report entitled “Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy,” concluded that AI-driven automation suggests the need for aggressive public policies and a more robust safety net in order to combat labor disruption. The report elaborates on the topics of the previous one: Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, which recommended the publishing of a report on the economic impacts of artificial intelligence. The focus of AI capabilities is the automation of tasks which have required manual labor, which will provide new possibilities for the economy. However, the disruption of the current livelihood of some people is inevitable. The report’s objective is to find how to increase the benefits and mitigate the costs.

AI isn’t a science project; it’s commercially important.

The report proposes that three broad strategies are followed to ease the AI automation in the economy: first, invest and develop AI; second, educate and train workers for the future jobs, and, finally, aid workers in the transition and empower them to ensure broadly shared growth. Since AI automation will transform the economy, policymakers need to create or update, strengthen and adapt policies. The primary economic effects under consideration are the beneficial contribution to productivity growth, the new skills that the job market will demand (especially higher-level technical skills); the disbalance the impact of AI will create on wage and education levels, job types and locations; the loss of jobs which might be long term, depending on the policy responses.


For the past four years, the US and China have been heavily investing in AI especially compared to other countries. Just till recently, the US seemed like the leader in the tech race, but 2 years ago China has outdone the US in research output. China is emerging as a leader, not a follower. Government is backing research and development and thus driving China’s economy forward. The total value of AI industries will surpass 1 trillion yuan ($147.80 billion).

On July 20, China’s State Council issued the “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” (新一代人工智能发展规划), which articulates an ambitious agenda for China to lead the world in AI. China intends to pursue a “first-mover advantage” to become the “premier global AI innovation center” by 2030.  And Wan Gang, the Minister of Science and Technology, stated that China plans to launch a national AI plan, which will strengthen AI development and application, introduce policies to contain risks associated with AI, and work toward international cooperation. The plan will also provide funds to back these endeavors up.

The guideline states that developing AI is a “complicated and systematic project” and needs a coordinated AI innovation system- not only for the technology, but for the products as well. It goes on stating that AI in China should be used to promote the country’s technology, social welfare, economy, provide national security, and help the world in general.

The guideline advises that trans-boundary research needs to connect AI with subjects like psychology, cognitive science, mathematics, and economics. As far as platform construction goes, open-source computing platforms should promote coordination among different hardware, software and clouds. This will naturally increase the need of more AI professionals and scientists should who need to be prepared for work.


The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is actively engaged in global discussion about making AI ethical and beneficial. It is working not only internally, but with collaborators and competitors as well.

Because of the constant change in development, AI is making it difficult for any regulation agency to keep up with the progress. This is making meaningful and timely guidance almost impossible. On the other hands, issues like data privacy and ownership have been discussed in the EU. An algorithm for transparency and accountability has also been considered.

In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation will be rolled out in the EU. It will restrict automated individual decision-making (algorithms making decisions on user-level predictors) that affects users. This law provides the “right to explanation:” a user can request an explanation why the algorithm has chosen him/her.

Safety is important, but so are fairness, equality and inclusiveness, which should be included in the AI systems. That’s why we need policies and regulations: to ensure AI is being used to the benefit of all. IBM is working with governments, media, regulatory agencies and industry sectors: everyone, who is willing to have a reasonable discussion on the ethical issues of AI. The aim is to clearly identify the potential and limits of AI and how to make the best use of it.

Who is it up to?

On a shorter term, it is up to the policymakers and lawyers. In the near future, government representatives need to have the technical expertise in AI to justify decisions. More research is needed on the security, privacy and the societal implications of AI used. For example, instead of cross-examining a person, lawyers may need to cross-examine an algorithm.

As with everything technological, there is a definite uncertainty about how strongly these effects will be felt. Maybe AI won’t have a large effect on the economy. But the other option is for the economy to experience a larger shock: changes in the labor market, employees without relevant work skills and in a desperate need of a training. Although no definitive decision could be taken or a deadline for policies setting, continued involvement of the government with the industry, technical and policy experts will play an important role.

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