Report From Brussels: AI in the EU By Sara Conejo Cervantes (age 17)

18thJune 2018

I have been fortunate to have been invited to participate at two conferences this year, firstly the AI for Good Summit at the United Nations Office in Geneva, and then secondly at the AI Europe Stakeholder Summit in Brussels.

My role was to represent the views of today’s youth in relation to the promise and problems of Artificial Intelligence(AI), as well as the future it holds.

The summit in Brussels commenced with Ariane Rodert, from the European Economic and Social Committee, introducing the agenda and main purpose, which was how the EU will contribute to the future of AI, whether it was within the economic, social or legal sector. Following on from Rodert was Catelijne Muller, President of the EESC Thematic Study Group on AI, who discussed the concern about job losses due to the growth of AI, and how to prepare ourselves for this drastic, but inevitable change.

Eric Horvitz from Microsoft Research Labs was the keynote speaker and he focused on his company’s responsibility to make AI that is easily accessible for all different types of people. He said that as there are no set laws specifically targeting AI, companies play a large role in ensuring that AI is ethical and used in the right way. Horvitz used a key phrase, ‘not man or machine but man and machine’. I personally think that this is a great way to look at how all technology should be incorporated into society. He also briefly touched on education and shared his beliefs that the educational system is not preparing the younger generation to work with AI in the future.

Mr Horvitz also spoke about a Microsoft program which focuses on equipping young people with technological skills which they will need later on, and getting young people involved in technology from a young age.

I agree with their mission, and believe that we should all be concentrated on this, as not having a technical education / experience can cause some problems later on.

It was then our turn to speak, mine and Elena’s. Elena started by introducing Acorn Aspirations and Teens in AI and spoke about why she started Acorn and how hackathons have transformed the lives of over 1500 young people across the world, by offering them an opportunity to solve problems in their communities and worldwide using technology, such as AI. I began by going through my own technology journey so far with technology, and how it has shaped me as a person. I spoke about the Hackathons I attended when I was younger; the projects my group and I have developed, such as an Alexa Skill for Amazon during the latest Alexa Bootcamp run by Acorn Aspirations. I believe that the Hacks I attended not only taught me how to code, but they also how to work with others, how to solve problems using technology, how to learn, and how to come up with ideas and follow them through. In sharing my story, I hope that I might have influenced others sitting in the room into keeping a more open mind about alternative methods of teaching that may be more beneficial than just the narrow approach of teaching to pass an exam.

I also suggested that more teenagers should have the same experience I am lucky to have had- to represent young people in big parliaments. I proposed the idea that the EU government should create a youth parliament, where those who will be affected by laws made now can express their views.

Elena Sinel, founder of Acorn Aspirations and Teens in AI, and I acted as co-referents for Working Group III: Industrial Competitiveness in AI. We collectively discussed the importance of changing education to better prepare young people for the future. Furthermore, we also touched on the topic of the public’s trust in companies and stakeholders. The main question we were asked in accordance to this was about how we would achieve this, and a proposed idea was for stakeholders to jointly create some guidelines for all companies to use. For example, only putting algorithms on the market if they are explainable. Data quality and quantity were also reviewed: “How much is enough?” “Is the data reliable and representative?” Indrės Vareikytė then drew the conclusion that the main objectives to ensure that AI works ethically in the future is that the EU keeps up with the development of this technology and that it teaches young people how to adapt themselves and understand the concepts of it.

Originally published at Acorn Aspirations.

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