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Google, Microsoft and Alibaba legal experts among members of S'pore’s AI advisory council

SINGAPORE — Legal experts from tech giants Google, Microsoft and Alibaba have been appointed to sit on Singapore's first Artificial Intelligence (AI) advisory council, alongside leaders of local companies such as Temasek International.

Google, Microsoft and Alibaba legal experts among members of S'pore’s AI advisory council

The IMDA defines AI as a set of technologies that seek to imitate human traits and processes such as reasoning, problem solving, perception, learning and planning.

SINGAPORE — Legal experts from tech giants Google, Microsoft and Alibaba have been appointed to sit on Singapore’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) advisory council, alongside leaders of local companies such as Temasek International.

The Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, first announced in June, is led by former Attorney-General V K Rajah. On Thursday (Aug 30), the Infocomm Media Development Authority council announced the other 10 members.

They are:

  • Google’s Asia Pacific vice-president of Legal Jenni Aldrich

  • Jungle Ventures’ co-founder and managing partner Amit Anand

  • Chairman of Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities in Singapore University of Technology and Design, Professor Chan Heng Chee

  • Social Credits’ chief operating officer Chen Wei

  • Temasek International’s president and chief operating officer Chia Song Hwee

  • Microsoft Corporation’s Worldwide National Technology Officer, Office of the CTO, Industries, Mr Andreas Ebert

  • DBS Group’s chief executive officer Piyush Gupta

  • Parrot Social’s founder Hamidah Aidillah Mustafa

  • National Supercomputing Centre Steering Committee chairman Peter Ho

  • Alibaba Group’s vice-president, deputy general counsel, partner, Ms Sara Yu Siying

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU:

The set up of the council will mainly affect businesses that are actively seeking to develop and deploy AI. Such organisations will be keen to see if any new guidelines will be issued. They may also wish to work closely with the council and participate in discussions.

EXAMPLES OF AI USE IN SINGAPORE:

  • OCBC has developed an AI-based automated chat system called Emma that can communicate with customers and work out home loans.

  • The Health Ministry’s IT arm, Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), is experimenting with the possibility of using chatbots in preliminary assessments of patients.

  • Researchers from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) Environmental Health Institute has also developed an AI agent to forecast dengue incidence up to four months ahead by learning the seasonal patterns of dengue cases over the last decade.

THE NEED FOR THE COUNCIL AND THEIR ROLE:

AI is a fast-growing frontier technology, but has had its fair share of controversy.

With the increasing use of AI in Singapore, especially with the Government driving its “Smart Nation” initiative, it is important to have some level of regulation or guidance as more businesses seek to develop and use AI — though the council’s recommendations are not binding at the moment.

Recent incidents in other countries have renewed the debate about ethical AI use. For instance, a self-driving Uber car which killed a pedestrian in Arizona this March threw up the question of who should be held responsible in such cases, and who makes the decision over how the car should be programmed — to protect the passengers in the vehicle, or the pedestrians?

There is also the ethical issue of big data collection. In China, AI is being used to track whole cities, drawing on data collected from various sources. This means there will be increasing chances for people's data to be collected, stored and manipulated without their consent, or even their knowledge.

The setup of the AI advisory council in Singapore follows similar moves in other countries.

Germany has drawn up ethical guidelines to govern the use of driverless cars, while the UK has set up a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to study and develop best practices for AI regulation. In the US, the Bank of America and Harvard University has formed The Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence to examine the use of AI in April.

The Singapore council of industry leaders and legal experts will lead discussions and provide guidance to the Government on how to responsibly adopt and develop AI in Singapore. They will also publish discussion papers, advisory guidelines and codes of practices, which businesses can adopt.

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