In 2011, Kay Firth-Butterfield picked up a copy of TIME titled 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal. The trend of exponential growth in computing power, that magazine issue projected, meant that computers would surpass the brainpower of a human in 2023, and of all humanity combined by 2045. Firth-Butterfield realized at that moment that getting artificial intelligence right would be absolutely critical.
Human brains are still the dominant mode of intelligence on earth at the dawn of 2024, but perhaps—at least according to some AI experts—not for much longer. Recent advances in AI have led governments around the world to come to the same conclusion that Firth-Butterfield came to in 2011: “We [need to] set out now what we humans want in our lives with AI.” She recalled that epiphany to an audience at the TIME100 Impact Awards in Dubai on Sunday, where she was presented with an award recognizing her impact on the field of responsible AI.
Firth-Butterfield—the CEO of the consultancy startup Good Tech Advisory and the former head of AI at the World Economic Forum—is “one of the foremost leading experts in the governance of AI,” said Kate Kallot, the founder of Amini, a Nairoibi-based AI startup, who presented Firth-Butterfield with the award. “But she does not count herself as one of the alarmists. She believes in the power—and the benefits—of the technology.”
In her acceptance speech Firth-Butterfield issued a warning against relying on biased data to train AI systems. “If we are to succeed in creating better economic prospects for all with AI, we have to start by doing better with data,” she said. “About 3 billion people cannot access the internet… [and] billions more have not created a sufficiently large data footprint for their contributions to be evaluated by generative AI without very precise prompts.”
“I have hope that we can truly come together to make AI a safe and equitable tool that we can use to advance our humanity as well as our economy for everyone,” she concluded her speech by saying. “So I ask you that we plan together our future, and that we start doing so today.”
TIME100 Impact Awards / AI is sponsored by World Government Summit, Museum of the Future, Northern Data Group, and AI71.
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