Interview with Yoshua Bengio

“Climate change and the emergence of new pandemics are global challenges to which AI can be applied in a transformative way”

Co-chair of the Responsible AI working group, Yoshua Bengio sets out the importance of using AI in the context of climate action and epidemics, and urges swift and coordinated global action.

What is your overview of the impact GPAI could have on responsible Artificial Intelligence?

Yoshua Bengio: The GPAI brings together multidisciplinary experts from around the world to develop recommendations for governments on how they could accelerate the development of a more responsible form of innovation in Artificial Intelligence by simultaneously avoiding abuses of AI and stimulating it for socially beneficial applications that can have major positive impacts on society as a whole.

Can you tell us more about the projects your working group has developed around climate action?

Climate change and the increasing risk of future infectious disease pandemics are global challenges to which AI can be applied in a transformative way to drive innovation in directions of major importance to humanity. The reports on the role of AI in climate change and biodiversity and on the role of AI in the discovery of new pharmaceuticals for public health both contain a series of recommendations to governments that they should be investing now to avoid significantly higher costs in the future. They bring together a number of insights into the technical processes by which AI-driven innovation can have a significant impact, and discuss important issues around the data governance required for convergence towards more effective technological progress, at the same time as protecting the public interest. Added to which – and this is where the GPAI also has a crucial role to play – development of these innovations should be internationally coordinated to maximise the leverage of the related investments, and make it easier for companies in many different countries to engage in these efforts by following similar guidelines.

What are the central recommendations of the climate roadmap?

There are three central recommendations. The first focuses on fostering the responsible development of, and access to, the data and digital infrastructure – relevant data, simulation environments, testing, model libraries and hardware, for example – needed to support the development and adoption of climate-related AI applications. We then recommend that research and innovation funding be targeted on facilitating closer integration between AI-focused initiatives and those which focus on climate-relevant applications.  Lastly, we also advocate supporting the introduction and integration of climate-focused AI application systems based on the targeted design and assessment of policies, market structures and business models, especially in highly regulated climate-related sectors such as energy, transport, agriculture and heavy industry.

What kind of partnerships would you like to see emerge from this work?

The reason why so many internationally renowned experts contribute to the GPAI is that they hope their work will have an impact through the actions of the GPAI member states. We would therefore like to see a large number of countries engage in discussions with GPAI members around these recommendations, so that they can be adapted to their realities and government action can be synchronised at global level in ways that take full account of differing national economic situations and needs.

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