Stanford University is hosting the AI100 project, a ‘One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence’, whose goal is to assess the impact of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) on, among other things, cities over the coming decades. After one year’s work, a set of preliminary findings have been made public.

Artificial Intelligence: predicting the impacts to 2030

Artificial intelligence is not a threat to mankind. This is one of the conclusions of a 27-page report entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030’. This, the first in a long series of planned reports, provides a summary of one year of research work, the first results from AI100, a project hosted by California-based Stanford University, whose purpose is to study the implications of artificial intelligence.

Transportation, health, safety and education are among the many sectors that will be impacted by advances in AI. So what changes can be foreseen on the 2030 horizon? The report’s authors – an international panel of 17 experts chaired by Peter Stone, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin – try to answer this question by focusing on the impact which this technology is likely to have on cities in North America. All in all, they are rather optimistic about its benefits.

The AI100 team predict that the overall impact will be positive. However, AI is likely to completely transform the labour market and indeed society as a whole, and given that the way the general public react to AI will strongly influence the practical outcome, scientists and legislators will need to ensure that the economic and social benefits of artificial intelligence are shared widely, stress the report’s authors. The more enthusiastically the technology is accepted, the greater will be the benefits it delivers, they argue.

At the same time, AI also raises many questions, particularly ethical and social questions, such as the right to privacy. The experts present their vision of North American cities in 2030. Among other predictions, they foresee that transportation will shift to autonomous vehicles. Cars, trucks and aerial craft will all be operating without human drivers and pilots. City residents will live further away from their workplaces than today and will spend their time differently, which will require some re-organisation of urban spaces.

The medical sector will also feel the impact. Data that has already been collected via personal surveillance systems, plus smartphone apps and to a lesser degree robot surgical assistants, will help to improve people’s health. AI systems will be working in close collaboration with doctors, healthcare staff and patients – provided of course that everyone feels they can trust such systems. Advances in this field are essential to enable the medical profession to provide better treatment.

The other areas looked at in the report are education, smart homes, safety, leisure, work and disadvantaged people. The authors have sought throughout to distance themselves from the ubiquitous works of science fiction on the subject and create a realistic basis for discussion on artificial intelligence going forward.

By Sophia Qadiri