The Dutch government needs to up its ambitions if The Netherlands wants to be a serious player in tomorrows economy. A new report by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) is defining AI for government officials and tells concrete tasks and recommendations for the adoption of AI in an effective yet humane way.
AI is a ‘system technology’
The profound thing about this report is how WRR manages to define AI as a system technology and not another general-purpose technology. The body argues that AI is comparable to the steam engine, electricity, the combustion engine and the computer. Instead of looking at the impact of AI upon society, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy is able to look at the broader picture.
It is also able to make long-term recommendations on how AI can be embedded within society. The WRR observes that while AI can be broadly defined as the use of algorithms, it does not serve the full purpose. The difficulty with such a general definition is that when AI is directed towards a goal that we do not fully understand – human intelligence – the very construct of AI gets less defined.
As a result, the report falls back on the definition set forward by the EU’s High-Level Expert Group on AI. “Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals”. This definition is sufficiently broad and the use of “degree of autonomy” highlights the key aspect of Artificial Intelligence.
AI in practice, according to the report, can be further classified into activities including Machine Learning, Computer vision, Natural language processing, Speech recognition and Robotics.
Five overarching tasks whole embedding system technologies
With every new technology, society deals with them in different ways. It often starts with a distrust before the technology is gradually embedded into our everyday lives. So, the WRR recommends five overarching tasks for the government and the society when embedding system technology like AI.
- Demystification: The report argues that the first step in societal embedding AI is to tackle the overly optimistic and pessimistic images of the technology. It supports learning to focus on the right questions and development of a “more realistic account of the technology and what it can do”.
- Contextualisation: The second task concerns putting technology into practice. The WRR argues in favour of creating a socio-technical ecosystem that is an enabler of societal changes.
- Engagement: This can also be described as democratising the technology by involving key stakeholders, particularly civil society.
- Regulation: The report also argues in favour of developing appropriate regulatory frameworks that safeguard fundamental rights and values in the long term.
- Positioning: Lastly, the report talks about investment in competitiveness and assurance of security in an international context.
Recommendation for the government
- The WRR report supports the idea of learning about ai and its application as an explicit goal of governmental policy.
- The report also says the government should Stimulate the development of ‘AI wisdom’ amongst the general public. It explains that this should begin with the setting up of algorithm registers to facilitate public scrutiny.
- The government should explicitly choose an ‘AI identity’ and investigate in which domain changes in the technical environment are required to realize this.
- The report further recommends enhancing the skills and critical abilities of individuals working with AI. It also recommends the establishment of educational training and forms of certification to qualify people.
- The report also explains how civil society can work to expand their work to the digital domain, especially the one related to AI. There is also the need to strengthen the capacity of these organizations.
- Like any major organisation, the WRR sees the need for a strong feedback loop between the developers of AI systems, their users and the people that experience its consequences.
- The report also explains the need to connect the regulatory agenda on AI to debates on the principles and organisation of the ‘digital environment’.
- It also places regulation as a tool to steer active development of surveillance and data collection, the concentration of power, and the widening gap between the public and private sector in the digital domain.
- The central message of the recommendation is to bolster national competitiveness through a form of ‘AI diplomacy’ focused on international cooperation, specifically within the European Union.
- Lastly, the report recommends knowing how to defend yourself in the AI era. This includes strengthening national capacities to combat “both information warfare and the export of digital authoritarianism.”
Download the whole report on “mission ai” here.