KMD Steam 2023: The discussion about our technology has never been more important
Digitization and new technology can make a big difference to societies all over the world. However, it is up to humans to ensure that this difference is a positive one and, in fact, we risk the opposite if we lose control over the development of new technology and how we implement it. Na'Tosha Bard, CTO of KMD, explains this in this prelude to Steam 2023.
Words like ChatGPT, AI or just artificial intelligence no longer require a search in a foreign dictionary for most people. The words have moved into our everyday lives, into the political debate and into our everyday conversations. Not just at home, but in many places around the world. And it's about time, says Na'Tosha Bard, CTO of KMD.
With any new technology, there should be a discussion about its use. And the earlier you can have that discussion, the better, she believes. The question is, does the discussion about AI, and how we use it, come too late?
As a prelude to KMD's major technology conference Steam, which will be held on Tuesday 9 May in Copenhagen, here is an interview with KMD's Chief Technology Officer Na'Tosha Bard.
Na'Tosha Bard, there has been a lot of talk about new technology – especially AI - in recent months. What do you think of that debate?
“With my background in technology, I think all discussions about tech and the role of technology in society are interesting and relevant. I also think it’s safe to say that the discussion about our technology has never been more important than it is right now. There's a lot of exciting development going on, and it's easy to get both excited and a bit lost at the same time, because how cool is it that so many new things are happening, but what is fact and reality and what is actually just hype? Are we using our newest technology in the right ways? I ask myself these questions sometimes, but in the end I'm not worried. I'm mostly just glad that we're having the dialogue about our use of technology, because that's the dialogue we need to have to make sure that technology actually does what we want it to do, which is to make a positive difference to our society”.
As a tech nerd, you also know more about technology than most. Are there some things you've been missing in the debate about artificial intelligence, for example?
“When deep technology topics are suddenly debated more widely in the population, as a tech person you always miss the distinctions and nuances in the wider debate. So while it is great to see the wider population leaning into the debate and discussion about how to embrace technology, and AI in particular, I think we also see the effect of these nuances being absent. For example, the differentiation between the different types of AI has been in short supply in the broad debate, and the lack of details can potentially damage the trust in all forms of AI. This serves no good purpose, because today there are countless good and safe ways to use AI, and you cannot put all artificial intelligence in the same box and label it as being something dangerous. There is also a significant difference between using AI to make decisions alone, and using AI to inform and guide human decisions”.
“I am also perhaps a little controversial, as I am not one of the group that thinks artificial intelligence has become so much more interesting in recent months. I think it has just become more widely exposed to the general population and media. I think we are still very far from having anything resembling Artificial General Intelligence that could actually replace humans or fully replicate human thought. What we have now are very complex and advanced language models. These show some potential, but are still often factually inaccurate, for example. So there is still a long way from a chatbot to a degree of artificial intelligence comparable to the human one”.
“So we are not yet at the point where knowledge workers should feel threatened in any way. Humans have always used technological development to automate tasks that otherwise required manpower and resources. This allows us to direct human manpower and resources to other tasks. For me, AI is no different, and I think we should embrace those opportunities. AI has the potential to improve the quality of life for many people. We can use it, for example, to introduce fairness and efficiency into human-driven processes like case management, credit decisions, and other types of similar scenarios”.
Is the political discussion on artificial intelligence coming too late?
“I do not believe that we are on the back foot, but recent months, and the last year have nevertheless shown how quickly things can develop, how quickly hype (and misinformation) can arise and, therefore, how quickly politicians must react to new technologies. The speed also shows how difficult it is to regulate on new technologies. How are you supposed to regulate in advance? The EU is on its way with its regulation in the area of artificial intelligence, and I think that will be even more important going forward”.
“Something we should have at the center of our discussion around artificial intelligence, however, is, what is it that we want technology to solve for us? There has to be a meaningful problem and thus a void that technology can fill if technology is to really break through and help us as a society. We need to start there as we develop our new technology and digital future. If we develop just to develop some wild technology, the not only fail to create real value, but worst case we also risk that the technology gives us new problems to deal with”.
Do you see any risks in using AI?
“I see some risks in the fast application of immature AI technology and potential unethical use. I think the most obvious and current risks can be divided into different categories:
There are security risks or bugs in AI-generated code that we have to control for.
There can be significant societal challenges introduced with AI-generated media.
There are questions and concerns around the energy consumption associated with training and operating large AI models”.
“And then there is a risk that the development of AI exploits human manpower, for example for data tagging as part of building ML datasets”.
“But while there are risks to AI, I firmly believe that we must embrace the development and help influence the maturation of AI, while ensuring that AI legislation focuses on transparency, accountability and prevention of exploitative work practices”.
You mentioned that you miss nuances in the tech debate – will there be room for nuances on Steam?
“Indeed! We have created a program that contains the latest trends and discussions in the tech industry, thus also several interesting sessions about artificial intelligence. There will be room to geek out and to look into the crystal ball and speculate on the future. I am very much looking forward to that. Several speakers come with an international perspective, and it is always interesting to add this to a Danish context, where we in the it industry are at a level where we can afford to look out to the world and have ambitions that go beyond the map of Denmark”
Kristoffer Østergaard Kristensen