Generative AI – A Tale of Two Cities

Feb 15, 2023

Luis J. Salazar

To borrow a phrase, these are the best of times, and they are the worst of times.

The AI revolution presents both promise and peril, with the potential to drive social progress. But it also brings uncertainty and fear as jobs are replaced, and biases perpetuated. The choice is ours – to harness AI for progress or let it further divide us.

In January and February of 2023, I participated in a series of executive briefings in Olympia, Seattle, Redmond, DC, San Francisco, and NY alongside leaders from various sectors, including Fortune 500s, startups, government agencies, academia, investors, and nonprofit organizations, discussing the long-term challenges and short-term opportunities to drive positive social progress with AI.

These are my reflections:

Let’s have an inclusive, transparent, and comprehensive approach.

One of the key themes that emerged from these discussions was the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to the development and deployment of AI. As we advance this technology, we must establish ethical principles, legal frameworks, and governance mechanisms that can ensure that AI is used in ways that are transparent, accountable, and aligned with human values.

Learning from the Mistakes of Social Network Monetization.

Over the past ten years, I have advocated for responsible social networks. Despite evidence of negative impacts on society, democracy, social justice, and mental health, some investors and brands prioritize profits over the common good by investing or advertising on these platforms.

Let’s learn from these experiences as we consider the monetization models for the rapidly growing use of conversational and generative AI.

We must ensure that these technologies are developed, monetized, and deployed in ways aligned with our values and prioritizing the well-being of society as a whole.

Entrepreneurs are leading the path.

A personal highlight of the discussions was the interactions with entrepreneurs harnessing AI for social good. Their work includes innovative solutions such as:

  • Accurate detection of anxiety and depression (Ellipsis Health). There is great potential for this technology to improve our mental health; thanks to the ethical use of AI, our privacy is preserved.
  • Improved skin cancer detection for individuals with dark skin tones.
  • Optimized deployment of disaster relief resources.
  • AI-assisted data analysis and content creation for nonprofits (Connect Sparks).
  • Drive social connectedness without sacrificing individual privacy.

These practical applications showcase the tangible benefits AI can bring to communities through innovative business models and partnerships. The discussions also touched upon the rapidly growing adoption of technologies such as GPT-3, highlighting the need for funding, data, and ethical frameworks to ensure positive social progress as AI becomes more widely adopted.

Making Progress: Avoiding Stagnation through Practical Action.

As a practitioner of Learning by Execution, I stressed the value of a hands-on approach to AI development and deployment. This approach enables quick adaptation to market feedback and delivers solutions that meet the needs of nonprofits and small businesses.

In my interactions with nonprofits and small businesses, I have observed an increased interest in using AI to improve operations and achieve their objectives. These organizations seek practical solutions to help them reach their goals.

As a contribution to AI for social progress, our focus is on two key work areas:

  1. Making AI accessible and impactful for nonprofits and small businesses. We aim to explore practical, affordable, and accessible ways for these organizations to use AI to reduce costs, increase revenue, drive growth, and fulfill their mission.
  2. Addressing biases in AI algorithms. We seek practical and cost-effective ways to mitigate the biases that can arise from limited access to training data and the absence of inclusive frameworks.

We acknowledge the crucial role of regulation in preventing the misuse of technology by bad actors. Our focus is empowering innovators to build fair and unbiased algorithms by providing them with the necessary resources and tools. By focusing on the two key work areas outlined above, we aim to create a more inclusive and equitable AI landscape for all.

As we embark on this journey toward harnessing the power of AI for social progress, it’s important to remember that we are at a turning point. For some, the future of AI holds endless possibilities and opportunities, while for others, it brings fear and uncertainty.

By working together and focusing our efforts on practical, affordable, and inclusive solutions and by addressing the biases inherent in AI algorithms, we have the power to ensure that AI is a force for good.

We can improve lives, reduce inequalities, and create a brighter future. Let’s work towards a tale of two cities where AI is a beacon of hope and progress, not a source of division and harm.

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