The future in artificial intelligence
“During the first twenty years of my career, I never thought about being a woman. I worked because I wanted to work.” Given that Marisrosaria Taddeo has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential women in technology in the UK and one of the top 100 women in the world in the field artificial intelligence and ethics, her words take on an even stronger meaning. Greater recognition of the role of women in the workplace and especially in science subjects is one of Professor Mariarosaria Taddeo’s battles. She is now a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and Deputy Director of the Digital Ethics Lab.
“As I got more senior,” she adds, “and also began to take on non-peer but more senior roles, I realized that there’s this filter that the world puts on us. There’s a kind of mirror that reminds you what your roles should be, and I later learned to deal with them.
Then because I don’t care, I ignored them before, and I still ignore them now, as we must. My ideal world is one in which gender identity becomes as relevant as the length of your hair.”
Professor Taddeo studies the frontier of innovation, where the artificial intelligence of the future is designed.
Professor, what are the limits of artificial intelligence today? Where are the latest discoveries taking us?
“Artificial intelligence has had a strange history since we started thinking about it in the 1950s. The first time we the expression ‘artificial intelligence’ in a research proposal was in 1956. Then there was what we could call ‘a summer of artificial intelligence’ with a burst of research funds. But they slowly trickled away. Then there was a ‘long winter’ until the research funding resumed in 2012 and the science became the artificial intelligence we speak of today. Over the last ten years it has spread very widely, to the point that AI is now in our pockets. We use it on our cell phones, our televisions, our computers. And we will use it more and more.
When we talk about artificial intelligence that allows us to read reality, we are talking about technology that allows us to understand the dynamics of the environmental crisis, to help us deal with it; which allows us to collect genomics data and understand the origins of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and try to treat them. These are challenges that we must win.”
What are the new opportunities that artificial intelligence creates for multinational companies? For example, think in the case of Webbuild in the field of large-scale construction…
“We live digital societies which produces massive amounts of data. According to estimates, the amount of data produced every day will fill 200 million DVDs by 2025. This data is not important in itself; it is important if we can read it because it is a snapshot of reality. Without artificial intelligence, we cannot read this data. The great opportunity that artificial intelligence offers us is around delve into the complexity of the environment around us. For a company like Webbuild, this is critical. Not only for actual construction, but also because this deep reading of reality also applies to processes, it also applies to the organization of things.
For a multinational company that works with thousands of suppliers around the world to manage all kinds of crises from ecological to pandemics across time zones, having the help of artificial intelligence to deal with these dynamics is a huge advantage.
Moreover, the long infrastructure construction processes require massive calculations, also considering environmental variables. Here again, artificial intelligence helps us in that direction, enables us to be more efficient and effective.”
What, on the other hand, are the big risks that artificial intelligence poses?
“One of the open questions is definitely about its effects on the world of work. Analyzes on the impact of artificial intelligence on the labor market should be taken with a grain of salt because there are so many variables that go into this scenario that it is difficult to make predictions of its impact.
I think that the interaction between artificial intelligence and the workplace is important because it will be one of the channels through which digitization will transform tomorrow’s society even more. Certain jobs will be different. I don’t mean that people will be replaced, but their function will be different.”
What are the constraints (if any) that should be placed on new breakthroughs in digital innovation?
“Innovation is always a bit of a double-edged sword. Think of the atomic bomb and nuclear energy. I don’t think it’s a matter of limits being set ex ante, that is, things we should not do regardless of what are immoral things. Instead, I think we need a watchful eye that can guide the process of innovation as it happens. Technology and digital innovation has become a structural element of our societies. We call ourselves digital societies because we cannot do without these services. It’s as if, I always say, digital technology has become an infrastructure of the reality we live in.”
How do you think a conscious use of artificial intelligence can change the world of infrastructure? Beginning of the design phase?
“We imagine a building where artificial intelligence allows us to understand the correct use of electricity, the variation of temperatures, and we help manage it using this data. It basically makes life not only easier, but also more sustainable. And similarly, we can imagine roads that we can equip with sensors that generate the data we need to continuously monitor and maintain them. Smart cities can install sensors to intelligently distribute data that artificial intelligence allows us to use to improve infrastructure, services and policies. It won’t happen in six months, but in 10 years I can’t imagine anyone not building a neighborhood, a bridge or a road without being able to use data to manage the infrastructure in an efficient and sustainable way not driving.”