130 Young Leaders Around the World Explore the Possibilities & Pitfalls of Artificial Intelligence in Aspen Institute-Microsoft Collaboration

September 17, 2020

In a report and upcoming event on September 24, the NextGen Network addresses the potential of AI to transform society and the policies necessary to steer its development

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Microsoft Media Relations
WE Communications for Microsoft

Washington, DC, September 17, 2020 – The NextGen Network released a new report, How AI Can Work for Humanity, sharing the perspectives of more than 130 young leaders on the profound implications of artificial intelligence for society and the need for new rules governing its use. The report and its findings will be explored during a virtual event on September 24 from 10:00-11:00am EDT. The Network is a collaboration led by the Aspen Institute’s International Partners and Microsoft that aims to highlight the views of leaders in their mid-20s and 30s in the sectors of technology, business, policy, journalism and civil society from Mexico, Germany, Central Europe, India, France, and the United Kingdom.

During the event, policymakers, business leaders and network members will discuss how AI could support governance, economic stability, public health, and international security around the world; what policies might ensure that AI is used responsibly and alleviate challenges young people will face; and address some of the complex ethical questions surrounding the technology. Confirmed participants include:

  • Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency
  • Sarah Bird, Principal Program Manager, Emerging Technology and Research Strategy Lead, Responsible AI Lead at Microsoft Azure AI
  • Vivian Schiller, Executive Director of Aspen Digital and former President and CEO of NPR (Moderating)
  • Members of the NextGen Network

Additional speakers will be announced in the coming days. The conversation will take place live, and interested members of the media can register and submit questions to panelists.

Since the NextGen Network was formed, the potential of AI has become even more apparent as it is deployed to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. AI could be used in a variety of applications, from tracking the spread of the virus, speeding up vaccine development through simulation, and even identifying and confronting the spread of disinformation. NextGen members such as Claudia Del Pozo share insights on how AI can be effectively implemented during a crisis, yet also caution that AI remains a young and unproven field, and highlight the risk of introducing systemic biases and undermining public trust in the technology without strong public oversight and due diligence.

Findings from the NextGen report came through a series of workshops with young leaders in 2018 and 2019, all of which addressed the question of what ethical AI should look like in the 21st century. Participants balanced theoretical explorations of guiding principles with practical discussions around public policy. While important differences emerged between regions, one consistent idea was that guiding values such as sustainability and social justice are priorities for rising generations. These key takeaways emerged from across the network:

  1. AI should be human-centered, with transparency and accountability as paramount features.
  2. Overwhelmingly, AI will disrupt labor markets and the economy around the world.
  3. AI will help NextGen members’ careers and countries.
  4. Governments must lead in addressing the challenges of AI with tech companies and international organizations.
  5. The impact of AI on medicine and health and sustainability will be positive, yet will negatively impact income inequality.

Discussions from the national workshops revealed distinct variations in approach towards developing and regulating AI. For example, members in Central Europe and Mexico underscored the need for quick application and adoption of AI in order to compete with the US and China. Germany advocated for EU-led oversight and standards for how technology should be developed and consumer data used, while the UK and France recommended independent advisory boards and incorporating feedback from groups adversely affected by automation, disenfranchisement, and inequality. India was the only region to suggest oversight through an international lens, with ethical AI standards anchored by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Following the workshops, members were surveyed on technology’s impact today and in the future. The results, which are available here, showed overwhelming consensus that AI will disrupt labor markets and employment, but equal disagreement on whether it will cause a net loss in jobs or undermine public trust in institutions. NextGen will also share short videos of members discussing key findings from the workshops, with upcoming blog posts sharing their own experiences and recommendations for the future of AI.

Editor’s Note: Members of the NextGen Network can be viewed here. Journalists interested in interviewing NextGen members on the future of technology or learning more about the report’s findings should contact Jon Purves: jon.purves@aspeninstitute.org.

About the NextGen Network
The NextGen Network brings together 130 young leaders from technology, business, policy, journalism, and civil society to raise fundamental issues about the impact of artificial intelligence on society. The Network serves as a feedback mechanism for the informed perspectives of young people on how societies should prepare themselves to respond to new technologies and inform policy discussions at the local and international level. The Network currently operates in six areas: UK, France, Germany, Mexico, India and Central Europe.

About the Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

About Microsoft
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.


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