The Future of Artificial Intelligence with Narjis Hilale 

From smart cars to smartphones, Artificial Intelligence pervades almost every corner of modern life. In fact nothing is shaping our future more definitively than AI. It has become increasingly integrated into our daily activities – we depend on it for directions and music recommendations. It monitors our spending pattens, our eating habits, our likes and dislikes. Even our health. 

While AI might not yet mirror the sentient machines science fiction asks us to fear, we have well and truly entered the age of technology. Unsurprisingly, Mike had many questions, so he travelled all the way to Geneva and asked Narjis Hilale what the future of Artificial Intelligence is all about. 

Who is Narjis Hilale? 

Narjis has more than 15 years of experience in strategy and insights. She’s a citizen of the world, having gown up in Morocco, Switzerland and Indonesia before studying in France and Canada, and working in Singapore, Morocco and France. 

Narjis is an Adjunct Professor at the International University in Geneva and the author of the Women’s Essential Box for the Corporate World, where she outlines how women can survive and thrive in a society built for men. She believes Artificial Intelligence is coming much faster than gender equality, and has said that by the time men and women have equal opportunity in the workplace, robots will most probably rule the world. Yikes! 

When Mike met Narjis

It was a beautifully clear afternoon in Geneva when Mike arrived at the location for Narjis Hilale’s interview, where she told him, “We as humans tend to overestimate the impact of the changes of technology in the short term but in the long run we underestimate them”. 

Mike knew he was in for an eye opening conversation. So with a light breeze blowing through the window and the sun streaming in, Narjis and Mike discussed the future of artificial intelligence. 

What is Artificial Intelligence? 

The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined in the 1950s and has been dominating science – and science fiction – ever since. AI is often described as computer systems that have the skills to complete tasks once only performed by humans.

Put simply, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is intelligence demonstrated by machines rather than people and according to Narjis, the definition is constantly evolving.  

But she is certain AI is changing our futures in ways that we can’t even consider today. 

What does the future of AI look like?

Narjis believes the future of Artificial Intelligence is connected to data. She says that whoever owns and controls the data, will “own and control the future”, too. 

And therein lies the problem. 

In 2008, the top publicly traded companies included oil king Exxon, energy leader General Electric and Proctor and Gamble, a multi-national, consumer goods conglomerate. By 2018, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (the GAFAM) were leading the race. 

The GAFAM is behind some of the greatest AI inventions of this century (think Siri, Alexa and Google search). All of these tech giants are also all owned and operated by men, meaning the technology has been built around inherent bias, conscious or otherwise.

The problem is not entirely new. 

Did you know that the first generation of airbags actually killed more women than they saved? It’s because the engineers developed and tested them on the average male body, which is approximately 15 centimetres taller and 10 kilograms heavier than the average female body. 

According to Narjis, without meaningful contributions from women in the development of artificial intelligence, the future will be at best sexist and at worst dangerous. 

So AI isn’t gender neutral? 

Although AI might appear gender neutral, machine learning is lead by humans, and –rightly or wrongly – internalised gender bias exists in all of us . 

Narjis says that if there is not an equal divide of men and women in the creation of new technologies, holes in the AI’s knowledge will invariably arise.

Empowering women to progress to leadership positions – especially in the tech space – feels like one way to combat this issue. But how else do we build equality into machines? 

In short, there are no simple answers. In fact, Narjis believes that soon gender equality won’t actually be society’s greatest pursuit. Instead, it will be establishing a power balance between humans and robots. 

What! The future is Artificial Intelligence s and humans? 

When you hear the word ‘equality’, what do you think of? Race? Religion? Men and women? It’s a torturing topic of conversation and even if we do achieve Shivani Gopal’s goal of gender parity by 2050,  Narjis thinks we are plunging head first into a future where our current struggles will actually play out between humans and robots. 

But if we learn to work together, Narjis says we might just be ok. 

“The future is humans and robots so let’s hold hands together and work together so that we can make sure it’s more of an equal world tomorrow.” 

Artificial Intelligence is changing everything 

The world is moving at a phenomenal pace and AI is driving the force. For better or worse, most of us are interacting with Artificial Intelligence every day. From bias data to bias algorithms, this interview with Narjis Hilale will have you contemplating what role Artificial Intelligence will play in our future. 

In this episode Mike asks:

01:28 Let’s just take it right back to the start. What is AI?
01:55 Your thought leadership in this area really grabbed my attention – around how gender neutral, or not, AI is. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
02:40 What sort of bias comes into that data?
03:27 So what does that mean in terms of the output? If we have bias coming in, what does that mean for the world beyond the AI?
04:21 How do we go bout future-proofing society so that we’re building equality into these machines, so that they can help us in the future? 06:23 How do we protect ourselves in a world where data is such a key commodity?
07:22 Do we know what we’re getting ourselves into by giving away this data? Do we need a new system for consent?
07:50 Yes, so we have men and women on one side and we have robots or AI on the other side and you have a dystopian view. What is the future of AI?
09:49 There are far more men who are in this field of futurism than women. Is there more a role for more women to get into this and possibly even a feminist perspective on the future?
10:58 Do you think AI can be a force for good, allowing us to sort of leapfrog effect so that equality can happen faster?
12:05 So when you think about the future is there anything in science fiction or popular culture that inspires you or terrifies you?
13:40 What is the future of AI looking like from your standpoint?
15:01 For women and girls watching this, what’s your message to them? What would you like to say in terms of their participation in conversations like this?

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If this episode isn’t enough, you can listen to the extended discussion on the Futurists.World podcast.

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