Issue 4: AI's Middle Ground

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter crafted to turn global technology shifts into a three-minute read. Feel free to share feedback at as we refine our voice. Towards a meaningful future! – Danish Farhan. 


AI's Middle Ground

Any way you look at it, regulating artificial intelligence is a messy business. On one side, private technology companies are innovating exciting projects and applications for AI. On the other side, governments are struggling to understand the pace of innovation and craft legislation to protect consumers. In a dramatic move last week, American lawmakers made their first major effort to regulate AI.  
Why the US matters: Home to Silicon Valley, the United States is arguably the most important AI market in the world. While other countries including France and the United Kingdom have drafted laws holding technology companies accountable for their AI algorithms, the US hasn’t taken similar steps until now. The new congressional bill, called the Algorithmic Accountability Act, requires major tech companies to review their AI systems for bias and discrimination, and monitor their systems for privacy and security risks.
What's next? The need for regulation is beyond debate. Even major companies like Google and Facebook are working on ways to ensure their algorithms conform to ethical standards. But those efforts have struggled to get off the ground. Now that the US is leading the regulation debate, smaller countries with major technology sectors like the UAE and Estonia need to follow suit. The sector needs innovation when it comes to regulation.


“The first step of forecasting the future requires a trip to the fringes of science, technology, design, and society."

Amy Webb, author of The Signal Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe is Tomorrow’s Mainstream.


Where does our data go? This is a central question for our time and happens to be the subject of a groundbreaking new book by Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff. We took a deep dive into the work to explore her thoughts on digital safeguards in the social media age. As technology companies continue to mine our data to create user behavioural models that can be sold off to the highest bidder, Zuboff argues that we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start a fresh debate about these shifts in the industry. If only more people would listen.

Recipe for delight: Have we lost the element of surprise in our internet-saturated lives? Many feel that the omnipresent algorithms of digital giants are eroding the serendipity of stumbling upon new experiences or ideas online. We wrote about one unusual way to reintroduce the delight of discovery into our digital lives. The solution might surprise you.


Follow the investor lead: Separating fact from fiction when it comes to artificial intelligence can feel like a fool’s errand. Investors, however, operate in the world of facts. Dubai’s AI ecosystem attracted $21bn in foreign direct investment between 2015 and 2018. That places the city first globally for attracting FDI for AI. On the back of Uber’s acquisition of Careem, this is further evidence of the power of Dubai’s technology sector. Investments don’t lie.

A sleight of hand: Who thinks handwriting is dead thanks to the unbreakable lure of screens all around us? In the United States, cursive handwriting is making an unlikely comeback. No longer confined to writing cheques or postcards, long lines of flowing cursive are finding new life as people associate the handwriting style with convention and tradition. The world is rapidly changing but that doesn’t mean we’re forgetting our history.


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