“For the first twenty years of my career, I never thought about being a woman. I worked because I wanted to work. Given that Marisrosaria Taddeo has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential women in technology in the UK and one of the top 100 women in the world in the field artificial intelligence and ethics, his words take on an even stronger meaning. Greater recognition of the role of women in the world of work and particularly in scientific subjects is one of Professor Mariarosaria Taddeo’s battles. She is now a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University and Deputy Director of the Digital Ethics Lab.
“As I got more senior,” she adds, “and also started to take on more senior, not peer roles, I realized there’s this filter that the world puts on us. There is a kind of mirror that reminds you of what your roles should be, and I learned to deal with it later.
Then, because I don’t care, I ignored them before, and I still ignore them now, as well as we should. My ideal world is one in which gender identity becomes as relevant as the length of your hair.
Professor Taddeo studies the frontier of innovation, where the artificial intelligence of the future is designed.
Professor, what are the frontiers of artificial intelligence today? Where are the latest discoveries taking us?
“Artificial intelligence had a strange history because we started thinking about it in the 1950s. The first time we saw the expression ‘artificial intelligence’ in a research proposal was in 1956. Then there was what we might call “a summer of artificial intelligence” with an explosion of research funds. But they slowly passed. Then there was a “long winter” until in 2012 research funding resumed and science became the artificial intelligence we are talking about today. Over the past ten years, it has become very widespread, to the point that AI is now in our pockets. We use it on our cell phones, our televisions, our computers. And we will use it more and more.
When we talk about artificial intelligence that allows us to read reality, we are talking about a technology that allows us to understand the dynamics of the environmental crisis, to help us deal with it; this allows us to collect genomic data and understand the origin of diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease and try to treat them. These are challenges that we must win.
What are the new opportunities that artificial intelligence creates for multinational companies? Think for example of the case of Webuild in the field of large-scale construction….
“We live digital companies that produce massive amounts of data. It is estimated that by 2025 the amount of data produced every day will fill 200 million DVDs. These data are not important in themselves; it’s important if we can read it because it’s a snapshot of reality. Without artificial intelligence, we cannot read this data. The great opportunity offered by artificial intelligence is of dive into the complexity of the environment around us. For a company like Webuild, this is essential. Not only for the construction itself, but also because this deep reading of reality also applies to the processes, it also applies to the organization of things.
For a multinational that works with thousands of suppliers around the world and manages all kinds of crises, from ecological crises to pandemics across time zones, it is a huge advantage to have the help of artificial intelligence to deal with these dynamics.
In addition, long infrastructure construction processes require massive calculations, also taking into account environmental variables. Here again, artificial intelligence helps us in this direction allows us to be more efficient and more efficient.
What, on the other hand, are the major risks posed by artificial intelligence?
“One of the open questions certainly concerns its effects on the world of work. However, analyzes on the impact of artificial intelligence on the labor market should be taken with a grain of salt as there are so many variables that are part of this scenario that it is difficult to make predictions of its impact.
I think the interaction between artificial intelligence and the workplace is important because it will be one of the channels through which digitization will further transform tomorrow’s society. Some jobs will be different. I don’t mean that humans will be replaced, but their function will be different.
What limits (if any) should be placed on new breakthroughs in digital innovation?
“Innovation is always a bit of a double-edged sword. Think of the atomic bomb and nuclear energy. I don’t think it’s a matter of set limits before, that is to say things that we should not do in spite of everything, which are immoral things. Instead, I think we need a watchful eye that can direct the innovation process as it happens. Technology and digital innovation have become a structuring element of our societies. We call ourselves digital companies because we cannot do without these services. It’s as if, I always say, digital has become an infrastructure of the reality in which we live.
How do you think a conscious use of artificial intelligence can change the world of infrastructure? From the design phase?
“We imagine a building where artificial intelligence allows us to understand the proper use of electricity, the variation of temperatures, and helps us to manage it using this data. This not only makes life easier but also more sustainable. And in the same way, we can imagine roads that we can equip with sensors that generate the data we need to continuously monitor and maintain them. Smart cities can install sensors to intelligently distribute data that artificial intelligence allows us to use to improve infrastructure, services and policies. It won’t happen in six months, but in 10 years, I can’t imagine someone not building a neighborhood, a bridge, or a road without being able to use data to manage infrastructure efficiently and sustainably.
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