UAE residents may feel like living in sci-fi world by 2025

Sarwat Nasir/Dubai
Filed on February 10, 2018 | Last updated on February 10, 2018 at 11.34 pm
Omar bin Sultan Al Olama during the Global Artificial Intelligence Governance workshop,  an event held ahead of the World Government Summit in Dubai on Saturday. The three-day summit begins today. — Photo by Dhes Handumon
Omar bin Sultan Al Olama during the Global Artificial Intelligence Governance workshop, an event held ahead of the World Government Summit in Dubai on Saturday. The three-day summit begins today. - Photo by Dhes Handumon

Omar Al Olama, the world's first AI minister says UAE will lead the world in AI-Ready sectors

The UAE Minister of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Omar bin Sultan Al Olama on Saturday announced that the UAE will focus on adopting AI in three lead sectors, including natural resources, tourism and logistics. He said the UAE will "lead the world" with fast-developing technologies in AI-Ready sectors. He also said the country will soon adopt AI across the government bodies and will ensure availability of AI-Ready data. 

The UAE will also upskill one-third of its IT and engineering graduates each year in AI, which is equivalent to one per cent of AI experts in the industry. And the residents could possibly feel as if they are living in a "science fiction world" by the year 2025, he added.

UAE releases world's first happiness policy report

The world's first report on the types of policies governments should implement to create happiness has been launched in Dubai. The Global Happiness Policy Report 2018 was announced by the UAE's Happiness Minister, Ohoud bint Khalfan Al Roumi, at the pre-event of the World Government Summit on Saturday.

The global happiness council is responsible for the report and independent experts worldwide contributed to it, including psychologists, educators and well-being counsellors.

The UAE's happiness-related initiatives were highlighted several times in the report, including the country's National Agenda of being the happiest country in the world, the Knowledge and Human Development's Authority to ensure the well-being of students and the Smart Happiness Index by the Smart Dubai Office.

"This report shows what needs to be done by governments to create happiness. The World Happiness Report is really a place where we document who's happy and the science behind it, but this report shows building a better one and acts as a guide," John F. Helliwell, the synthesis report chair at the global happiness council, said at a panel session.

"The progress is there but very slow. There are a lot of people that say 'oh, that's very nice but I'll go back to my office tomorrow and do my job as I usually do' and that's not good enough. Governments only take notice when people say they want to be happier."

However, Helliwell said the UAE has set a "good example" of the initiatives that need to be taken in order to create happiness within society.

Jeffrey D Sachs, the director of the global happiness council, said that wealth does not necessarily mean happiness. He used his own home country, the US, as an example. "We have a crisis in the US of mental illness, people are rich but they're not happy. Many governments want economic growth, they want the stocks to grow, then you can live in a built society and create chaos. I live in a society like that. They're not thinking about happiness."

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on Saturday on the sidelines of the pre-event forums of the World Government Summit, the minister said that self-driving cars could be on the roads "relatively soon".

"AI in the future, I think, is going to be the most important technology that humans have ever created. It is important today, but the potential of it will be seen in the near future," Al Olama said, who is the world's first AI minister. "Imagine every single service that the government provides and everything that you do, is tailored to you and given to you right before you ask it. It is something that makes your life so convenient and so good. You feel like you're living in a science fiction world - and I think, it will be possible by 2025."

He also touched on the much-awaited implementation of the self-driving cars in the UAE. Tesla recently opened a showroom of their autonomous cars in Dubai, however, the self-driving feature cannot be used yet because the legislation around AI has not been issued as of yet. Al though, Al Olama believes that could change sooner than expected.

He said he couldn't reveal an exact date of when the legislation will be issued, but, the UAE will implement the technology "faster than other countries". "I can't give a possible date but I know that it will happen relatively soon. The reason being is that the technology is already there and the only thing that's stopping us from having self-driving cars is probably the old systems . That discussion, we are facilitating and accelerating in the fastest pace we can," he said.

"I think we will deploy these technologies much faster than other countries. What we've seen from our leadership is that, if a target has been put, we will meet them or exceed them."

A major concern that has been voiced by legislators and safety experts was that which party would be liable in the case of a car accident - the human or the vehicle? Al Olama said many countries are looking to decide that it would be the fault of the manufacturer of the car. "They (the manufacturer) need to make sure the programming is rigorous enough. It's really something that needs to be taken into consideration. I think when an accident happens, the insurance mechanisms that are in place will govern in the right manner," he said.

"Today, we know that our cars are a thousand folds better than the cars that were there in the past. And just imagine that potential, when it comes to artificial intelligence, a hundred folds. Because this technology will be able to give you an experience that's unlike any other. That's something that has endless potential."

Guidelines for AI use sought

A global framework for the use of artificial intelligence needs to be issued in order to have a "successful" use of technologies, according to senior advisor to the Artificial Intelligence Initiative.

Nicolas Economou believes there needs to be common guidelines that each country is following when it comes to the application of artificial intelligence (AI). Economou, who is also the CEO of H5 and was a member of the Law and Judiciary policy committee for Barack Obama's first presidential campaign, was speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the AI Global Governance of AI at the pre-event of the World Government Summit. 

He was part of a workshop at the forum, which discussed the practice of law and justice related to Artificial Intelligence.

"In my opinion, a specific law is probably too specific and too undifferentiated to be able to practically work. A model that works better is to develop common guidelines framework based on shared values," he said.

"We are very different culturally but there are certain things that humanity reasons on - that we are all born with the same fundamental rights and dignity, that peace is better than war, respect is better than humiliation. 

All of that can surface guidelines for ethical principles of adoption of AI, which respects a human being and produces ethicality. Then, create specific guidelines for applications in different countries.

"I think it's really important to recognise, at an application level, the way different countries might want to use AI. There has to be flexibility of different cultural norms, otherwise, we would have difficult succeeding."

He said transparency in applications of AI is essential in order to govern properly. In the case of self-driving cars. For example, Economou said the specifics about the cause and effect of potential accidents are important.

"In that continuum, it is crucial to be able to identify who actually caused the cause of effect. That's why it is the underpinning of any legislation. Transparency is incredibly important to be able to identify the cause and effect. Legislation will have to focus on the transparency."


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