Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have opened opportunities in a range of human endeavours. In response to the speed of these developments there has been a burst of analysis and dialogue in New Zealand. The New Zealand Institute of Directors commissioned a white paper; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment published Building a Digital Nation and the Strategic Science Investment Fund 2017–24 business plan, and supports the new Artificial Intelligence Forum of New Zealand.
Intelligent systems are here and are likely to bring about a ‘fourth industrial revolution’. Systems with general intelligence, more capable than humans at most tasks, are more probable than not within 20–30 years. According to Nicholas Davies, head of the World Economic Forum society and innovation department, such systems will ‘fundamentally change the way we create value and do business, and value ourselves as human beings’.
AI is a global issue and presents great opportunities for benefit, but also great risk. Risks range from economic to social and psychological, to existential. We argue that these risks are insufficiently articulated in New Zealand government reports to date, and there is an obligation for New Zealand government agencies to consider deep questions about the kind of society we wish to live in and our role in the emerging global transition to an AI world. We explain AI briefly, identify four key risks that the policy response needs to reflect, and conclude that New Zealand needs to support serious research into the risks of AI. We need informed debate, formal public engagement and emergent policy.