GesellschaftPeter van der Putten

Peter van der Putten

Director AI Lab Pegasystems und Assistant Professor am Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), Leiden University

Niels Bohr once said: “It is difficult to predict, especially the future”. Instead of trying to predict what will happen, we should focus on creating the future we desire. Ironically, in this age of unpredictability, polycrisis and rapid change we need AI more than ever, in business, society and the arts.
What do we need from AI? Ideally, it should embed human values, serves the needs of us all, and protect minority rights. Easier said than done, but it is important to understand humans are the makers of AI. AI is not some magical technology that takes a life of its own, and we are not just waiting here for singularity to happen.
So don’t believe the AI techno-optimists nor the doomers. For better or worse, it is a tool shaped and reshaped by humans, and this is hard work, requiring constant attention to unforeseen consequences and system effects, and adjustments in research, development, governance, and regulation.
Consider business, where rampant change is the norm nowadays. Economic pressures, geopolitical conflicts, environmental concerns, and evolving workforce demographics demand a shift from traditional, centralized management and pure process automation to intelligent ’self-driving‘ businesses. AI can help businesses adapt dynamically and optimize towards goals. If we can have autonomous cars, why not autonomous enterprises?
From a societal perspective, we can only get there if AI becomes accepted intelligence, worthy of our trust. It should be fair and transparent, but even more importantly, benefit customers and citizens, employees, businesses, and governments alike. Regulation such as the EU AI Act can set the boundary conditions and foster responsible innovation and adoption.
We should also take non-human stakeholder interests into account, such as the rights of living and non-living nature. A creative illustration of this is our art project Letters from Nature, where we use AI to give nature a voice and generate letters to world leaders from sinking islands, melting glaciers and flooding rivers.
So let’s build the intelligent future we want!

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