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Diego Tovar | CEO | everis Colombia

Artificial Intelligence: friend or foe?

Barack Obama said in Greece in one of his last speeches as President of the United States, in which he warned his audience that the inequality created by globalization is the most important challenge for democracy. I believe that we, Colombians, should have a transcendent purpose in our lives, especially as our country ranks, independently of analysts, as one of the most unequal societies worldwide.

Therefore, before discussing AI or the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4RI), I feel compelled to share what I consider the greatest challenges faced by our society. First, an ethical one: we should overcome the representative model of constantly victimizing ourselves in relation to our representatives and move on to participatory ethics, unconditionally assuming the responsibility that every individual can only be transformed on their own account. Then, the educational challenge: our role is to evangelize our society, to understand that the so-called fourth industrial revolution might be the last opportunity that Colombians are given to close the equity gap in our country.

In a new economy, the economy of abundance, in which possessing assets becomes irrelevant and sharing is the key to access resources that are not owned, information becomes the most important asset. In an exponential society, that of Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, according to which the accelerators of exponentiality are AI, robotics, biotechnology and data science, to have transcendent, massive and ethical transformation purposes is key to our society.

In 2013, David Brooks discussed Dataism as the emerging philosophy and referred to Big Data, which is currently becoming an ideology and even a religion. Byung-Chul Han, in his book Psychopolitics (Verso Books), sees it as the new power of neoliberal capitalism as it uses Big Data to seize the data we voluntarily disclose, such as on Facebook, to predict our behavior and condition us at the pre-reflexive level, in addition to watching and even control us. Han speaks of a second Enlightenment, an “era of knowledge purely moved by data.” Yuval Noah Harari, in Homo Deus (Harvill Secker), describes Dataism as a religion and warns that after having worshiped gods and men, worshiping data threatens humanism and freedom.

We apparently face an essential dilemma. This is what Marina Garcés calls in her book New Radical Illustration (Anagrama) anti-enlightenment or enlightened illiteracy, an era in which we know everything, or so we believe, but can’t do anything. Franc Berardi says that “the most worrisome feature of the present time is the death of critical thinking” and proposes to “strengthen solidarity among the bodies of cognitive workers at a global level and build a platform for techno-poetic collaboration between them that allows us to free knowledge from economic dogma.”

He further suggests to create a new revolutionary class called the ‘cognitive’ one. Garcés and the other authors cited predict that humans may give up the task of learning, because we will obtain knowledge on everything from Big Data, and that threatens the option of living in a more dignified way with technological progress. That is why Garcés proposes a radical new illustration that establishes the freedom and dignity of human experience in its ability to learn from itself. I agree with his proposal.

Bernardi sees a possibility of collective intelligence based on egalitarian and social use of technology, but that requires cultural, psychic and political power that does not seem to exist yet.

Therefore, I suggest creating a new philosophy based on participatory ethical awareness that allows us to transform the threats of chaos into opportunities of equality and prosperity, based on the ethical use of disruptive accelerators. In pursuit of that goal, everis has decided to support BID, so that we may launch fAIr LAC in October, together with NTT, Google, Microsoft and Telefónica, an initiative that gathers governments and consulting & technology companies that are willing to work together to find out how AI may contribute to social welfare.

The Japanese concept of Keidanren, aka Society 5.0, could serve as the basis of this new philosophy. That concept puts society rather than industry at the center of the digital revolution. The idea is to form a super-intelligent society based on equality. In Society 5.0, both the digital and the physical space are integrated into what is known as Phygital. In previous societies, humans were in charge of creating knowledge, but in Society 5.0 the machines will be in charge of that task, which is achieved through artificial intelligence (AI) at the service of people. In addition, it features what I have called Augmented Humans.

Today, people do research using information technology, access and analyze information in the cloud and manufacture goods by means of robots controlled by humans. In Society 5.0, devices equipped with sensors, i.e. the Internet of Things (IoT) will do research using AI and Big Data to provide humans with recommendations and production will eventually be performed by autonomous robots in factories.

Officially, Society 5.0 “is a human-centered society that balances economic progress with the resolution of social problems through a system that integrates cyberspace and physical space in an advanced way.” Isn’t that the society we need in Colombia to solve the equity gap? A society based on imagination and creativity, that of the Orange Economy[1], because mankind can only surpass machines and become Augmented Humans in such a type of economy.

I strongly believe that the main challenge lies in education. AI should not only replace work, but should improve and increase it. Lesser jobs will disappear and we therefore need to educate and re-educate ourselves to fit into this new welfare society.

To realize these concepts, we have developed a pilot project for about 20 months in the Department of Cauca, a public-private and open partnership with SENA to create an ecosystem that aims at closing the digital gap in Colombia. We are radically transforming the Colombian educational model by connecting supply with demand through AI and offering full employment to approximately 70,000 Colombians per year, creating a cloud sourcing concept that aims to export Colombian orange economy talents worldwide using talent clouds. Welcome to Society 5.0.

Adopting the concept of a creative economy, the term Orange Economy was coined by Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez during his time at the Inter-American Development Bank, in a 2013 report co-authored with his current advisor, Felipe Buitrago.

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