Issue 1: Common AI Ethics?

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter crafted to turn global technology shifts into a three-minute read. Xische has led debate on the issues that matter most across technology and governance for over a decade. We aim to distill our insights to help you connect the dots. Feel free to share feedback at as we refine our voice. Towards a meaningful future! – Danish Farhan.


Common AI Ethics

Innovation in AI is accelerating at incredible speed. So fast that AI enthusiasts are asking “if” we should be making specific inventions, not “can” we create the technology. Welcome to the world of AI ethics. How can we create a global code of AI ethics when the field of ethics is heavily influenced by varying cultural concerns? This may be AI’s greatest challenge yet.

Recent history: There is a rush among the world’s leading AI innovators (like Google) to hire ethics and policy experts. Freshly minted nonprofits are focusing on bridging the gap between technology and policy. While those creating the technology might be starting to understand the implications of their creations, not all ethical viewpoints are represented. Now is the moment when smaller markets need to ensure that their ethical concerns are heard, understood, and incorporated into a rapidly changing technology ecosystem.

What’s missing? Ethical standards are dependent on cultural norms, which are different from market to market. A unified approach on AI ethics remains elusive and will likely be that way for some time. Smaller markets, like the UAE, can infuse the debate with fresh perspectives that might be left out of western-centric discussions. Technology knows no borders. That’s a good thing.


“I think it’s pretty inevitable that our consciousness will increasingly merge with technology."

Stephen Wolfram, AI pioneer.


5G and the challenges of the present: We’ve all heard how 5G will benefit our daily lives, but we don’t hear as much about how it stands to exacerbate present challenges. Instead of gushing over the promise of faster speeds (which is brilliant), we should focus our attention on how we’ll prepare for the radical changes 5G will facilitate. Easier said than done.    

Processing data: Given all the lingo in the technology sector, it’s striking when a new term immediately takes hold. This has happened with Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff’s new book,The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. We explored how and why she sounds the alarm on “surveillance capitalism”, where data is packaged and commercialised, often outside the public eye


Futuristic urbanism: Who hasn’t experienced a strange sense of deja vu when reading Orson Wells or Isaac Asimov of late? Science fiction has long been a vehicle to explore the impact of current technology trends for future societies. It’s one reason why we should keep reading science fiction today, and a new book by Seth Fried highlights the point. In The Municipalists, city planning evolves into a global space race. Urban planners are society’s saviors. Not too far from today’s reality.

New searches: Google is so enmeshed in our daily lives that few people would consider changing their default internet search engine. So why is there a growing movement to shift away from the ever-present Google search? It’s not because Google is offering a bad service. The opposite: its service is so good that we have lost the serendipity of discovering items on the web that we weren’t looking for. It can’t hurt to give it a try, even for a few days.


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