“To succeed, the GPAI must perpetuate its startup mindset”

Renaud Vedel, the Incoming Co-Chair of the GPAI Steering Committee, gives his assessment of the second Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence summit meeting, and outlines its future development path.

What are your positive takeaways from this GPAI 2021 Summit?

Last year’s event was essentially about problematising specific topics, so this was the first year in which GPAI experts have had the opportunity to present their achievements. This year’s summit focused on outcomes, recommendations and analyses of work in progress that will continue in 2022 and be explored in greater detail. So, this was the first event to witness the emergence of GPAI collective knowledge. The Paris summit therefore marked the peak culmination of the work done voluntarily by our experts throughout the year. It’s also been interesting to see the diversity of methods adopted by the Expert Groups. Some assessed the current state of the art in their particular field, or alternatively, presented action plans, such as the one on the potential AI contribution to combating climate change. Others suggested tools and resources for international public debate, such as the Future of Work initiative directory and the practical guide to intellectual property for SMEs. Lastly, some put forward ideas around the transformative power of AI for sharing the values of fairness, transparency and inclusiveness. 

What do you see as the main goals for 2022 that have emerged from the summit?

After the initial launch season, this second season must perpetuate its startup mindset if it is to succeed. The GPAI must take care to avoid becoming bogged down in institutionalisation, and remain an initiative united around multistakeholder participants with AI expertise, at the same time as interfacing with public policy makers at national level. The work of its experts now needs to be made widely available. It has a mission to contribute to the public debate. And it’s important to use the partnership model whenever possible to achieve more and create greater awareness.

What message would you like to send to Japan as the new GPAI Incoming Chair?

Well, the first thing I would do – of course – is to say welcome. This is the first time that three continents have been represented on the GPAI collegiate management structure. This troika works on the basis of consensus and ensures continuity across policy approaches, methods and achievements. 

What initiatives are planned to encourage the emergence of new topics for the GPAI in 2022?

The programme of work for 2022 has now been validated by the GPAI Council and extends beyond our ten ongoing projects. Three new topics identified by the experts have been adopted. The first focuses on computing technologies with the potential to protect privacy. Still emerging, these complex technologies include secure multi-party computation and differential privacy. Research is moving very quickly in this area, and the GPAI has a vital advisory role to play in keeping governments updated on the maturity of these technologies and the conditions governing their use. The second topic is AI and innovation in agriculture, with particular focus on agro-ecological conversion. These types of farming practice are essential for protecting biodiversity and reducing the carbon footprint of humanity. In this context, AI can help to reduce the use of pesticides, fertilisers and water. The third and final topic looks at creating a virtual network of living laboratories to conduct experiments around the future of work. The central focus here is the potential for AI to change the nature of work, not only in terms of purely economic productivity, but also in terms of improving working conditions. 

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