Andrea Renda: potential and risks of Artificial Intelligence

3 December 2019

“Artificial intelligence is not an economic sector, but a different way of doing things, so implementing it within the existing production processes or social relations means profoundly changing its dynamics and potential”.

Guest of the fourth Innovation Talks of Bologna Business School last December 2, Andrea Renda, Professor of Digital Innovation at the College of Europe and Senior Research Fellow at CEPS, a think tank of political studies founded in Brussels in 1983. At the center of the speech , the potential of Artificial Intelligence with all the related risks on an ethical, social and environmental level.

The AI ​​is in fact the most tangible example of how technological innovation is revolutionary and the scientific science is the only society in which we live: medicine, agriculture, energy, information, politics, art and the labor market are just some of the areas in which which, if not well regulated, the AI ​​can easily turn into what Andrea Rendade defines a “mad colt that we must learn to tame”.

His speech in the Aula Magna begins with a series of case histories in which man has been replaced by machines: from the famous Portrait of the Count of Bellamy entirely realized by an algorithm and sold by auction for 432,000 dollars as announced by Christie’s, Amazon’s first cashless store, where payment is made by monitoring individual buyers through remotely controlled computers. “The paradox of man who teaches the machine how to do a job that will one day replace them” – emphasizes Renda, who thus opens up a wide parenthesis on the ethical implications of AI. “Intelligence derives from Intus + Legere, or ‘read inside things’, but there is nothing intelligent in these examples, it is only a machine that processes data, with all the associated risks of the case”.

Machines that perform defined tasks, optimizing their functions, but “AI is a means, not an end”, recalls Renda, who reports to the Community the famous cases of Tay Tweets, the chatboy launched by Microsoft on Twitter to interact with the Millennials (settled after just 20 minutes for inappropriate messages like “I’m a nice person, i just hate everybody”); or the Trump-Bots that the 2016 elections amplified every message to reach 61% spam content.

How to avoid the Black Mirror effect? How to master the perfect imperfection of a machine that proceeds by algorithms? Andrea Renda has no doubts about the urgency of an ethical responsibility assumption in the man-machine relationship. “AI is classified as one of the great existential risks: and in the process of adapting digital innovation, it is up to the human factor to accompany the AI ​​in its potential without being overwhelmed”.


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