Posted on April 05, 2019

Four of the world’s top experts on artificial intelligence (AI) debated the merits of AI and how best to go forward with it during the second live debate of the 2019 season of Doha Debates – a Qatar Foundation production – at Education City tonight.

Hosted at Northwestern University in Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university, the debate examined the pros and cons of AI as it revolutionizes homes, workplaces, healthcare, transportation, and communications. The debate participants included AI advocates and critics from three continents and a conflict-resolution expert, as well as debate moderator Ghida Fakhry and digital host Nelufar Hedayat. Questions to the speakers came from students in the studio audience and livestream participants around the world.

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The debate’s speakers were Joy Buolamwini, a Ghanaian American computer scientist and digital activist at MIT’s Media Lab; Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher, bestselling author and director of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute; Muthoni Wanyoike, a Kenyan data scientist and organizer at Code for Africa and Nairobi Women in Machine Learning & Data Science; Dex Torricke-Barton, a former communications executive at Facebook, Google and SpaceX, and a British bestselling author; and Govinda Clayton, the debate’s bridge-building “connector,” a conflict-resolution expert and researcher at Swiss science and technology university ETH Zurich.

Joy Buolamwini highlighted that “While builders of AI systems aim to overcome human limitations, research studies and headlines continue to remind us that these systems come with risks of bias and abuse.” Nick Bostrom added, “Think about what it means to mechanize intelligence to full human level performance, and then shortly after to superhuman levels of intelligence.”

Muthoni Wanyoike said "We, as humans, have the ability to ruin the universe...or to ensure our continued existence." Dex Torricke-Bartonemphasized accountability, saying “I think we need to do better as a society in demanding that our politicians actually understand the technology they are talking about. A revolutionary idea.”

Twice during the debate, the audience in Qatar and around the world voted on key AI issues, choosing, ‘Without oversight, AI will amplify inequality' as proposed by debate participant Joy Buolamwini. The voting for solutions will continue online through Twitter at @DohaDebates, with the options, ‘Learn how AlphaGo works,’ ‘Regulate how AI shapes us,’ ‘Learn how to code’ and ‘Demand tech-savvy leaders.’

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Amjad Atallah, Managing Director of Doha Debates, said, “We’re all impacted by AI, one of the biggest opportunities and challenges of our time. The speakers provided practical suggestions and potential solutions — constructive dialogue that is the hallmark of Doha Debates.”

The full debate and highlights can be viewed on Doha Debates’ website and social media channels, with the conversation continuing using the hashtag #DearWorld.

The revitalized Doha Debates builds on the tradition of examining complex global issues established by Doha Debates’ original launch 14 years ago, through live debates, digital videos, a TV series, blogs and podcasts on the world’s most pressing challenges. This innovative approach includes majlis-style conversations designed to bridge differences, build consensus and identify solutions to urgent global issues. The next live Doha Debates event is set to take place on July 24 at TEDSummit in Edinburgh, UK, with global citizenship as the debate topic.

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