Idex Abu Dhabi: New technologies offer opportunities but also introduce social uncertainty and risks, say experts

AI offers a lot in terms of efficiency, better decision-making, and perception; however, the man in front of the machine makes the final decision

by

Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 5:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 5:26 PM

Local and international experts have explored the social and economic impacts and risks associated with the widespread adoption of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), neuro and biotechnology at the International Defence Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.

During a panel discussion at the event, the experts said these technologies certainly offer new efficiencies and opportunities, but they are also introducing new social uncertainty, risks and tensions. This will, in turn, create new missions, requirements and dilemmas for defensive security communities.


On the new technologies that will play an important and impactful role in the future, including the human experience as a human society, be it AI or gene biotechnology, the experts said each one of these technologies is going to bring new capabilities, but also new challenges.

Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said: “The limitations are the challenges you have with false positives. Ethical decision-making with a high level of competence is unfortunately not to the degree of a very well trained human being, but with time we're going to see that as we feed the systems with more and more data, they're going to be able to give us a better output compared to what we have today.”


Al Olama said that there are many challenges that need to be analysed. “These systems do not have the same level of empathy and thinking as humans. It is important that the decisions made are not too extreme or offensive,” he said.

According to John W. Nicholson Jr, chief executive, Lockheed Martin Middle East, AI offers a lot in terms of efficiency, better decision-making, and perception. However, in the end, the man in front of the machine makes the final decision — therefore, training people is key.

“AI is not about replacing human decision making but rather enhancing human decision making. Al is very good at detecting anomalies and this allows the human to come in and verify what needs to be done,” said Nicholson.

Explaining the new dynamics that the defence industry must address, Nicholson said: “Many technologies are out there and AI is one of them… you have directed energy, hypersonics — the list goes on… How these are integrated… could be the key in the future. Our goal is to deter conflict, to ensure that the capabilities that we and our partners have are so good that no one would want to risk conflict with us,” he said.

Roy Donelson, chief executive, Raytheon Mena, said threats are becoming more and more complex and unpredictable.

“One thing that we do is make sure that our operators understand the systems and explain the algorithms and the AI to ensure trust in the system… we want our operators to never have a doubt that the air defence systems will work,” said Donelson.

On how nations can stay in control of the technological development and mitigate the rest, whether in the civilian world or the military world, Al Olama said he believes the only answer is more cooperation, more dialogue.

“There are certain consequences today that do not allow for dialogues to happen and we know that, but we need to constantly push one to ensure that we are able to work together to collectively care about the future of humanity,” he said.

“I just hope that we have a lot more of these dialogues and engagements, where we bring multiple stakeholders from around the world to share best practices and knowledge and to present to the world case studies of what can and can't be our future,” said the Minister.

He also advised against underestimating "the level of imagination that bad actors have".

"They will think about using all of these tools to create as much harm as possible. And the only way that we will be able to truly ensure that we eradicate this nature is for us all to work together.”

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