(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) More than half the Internet users in the Arab region are "generally concerned" about artificial intelligence (AI) in terms of privacy infringement, causing accidents, loss of life, use in public policy and job loss, a survey has revealed.
Figures from The Arab World Online Report 2017, carried out by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) in collaboration with Bayt.com, showed that a total of 59 per cent of Internet users in the Arab region are concerned about the use of AI (artificial intelligence) applications. Over 70 per cent are concerned that AI could facilitate infringement of privacy and 46 per cent are worried that AI could cause loss of jobs.
The online survey was carried out in 22 Arab countries, which included Oman, the UAE, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Overall, 19,869 people participated in the survey.
The director of research and advisory at the MBRSG, Fadi Salem, told Khaleej Times that the UAE has taken a "positive step forward" in appointing a minister of AI that can help eliminate these worries.
"AI is seen as one of the major source of concerns compared to all of the other technologies that are emerging in the region and the reason is that there is limited understanding of its abilities, what it can do and there's a lot of information that may be misleading. There are also existing practices that people are worried about," Salem said. "Currently, it's under-regulated, it has limited understanding by the government and public - and that means it has a lot of potential for misuse. That's what provokes worry from the people.
"Policies need to understand the problem and this is where interventions by the government - such as creation of centres, ministries, departments - that look into AI's implications into society, is important. That's why we see that there is a new minister of AI in the UAE and I think that's an excellent step, at least for the UAE."
The report also revealed that 42 per cent of Internet users in the Arab world are concerned that driverless cars may threaten certain jobs.
"The top concern about AI-enabled mobility applications is safety (63 per cent for UAVs and drones and 61 per cent in the case of autonomous cars). Other concerns expressed about AI-enabled auto-nomous cars are their potential economic impact on jobs, and less so about the ethical dilemmas that may emerge from accidents potentially caused by them," the report said.
Privacy infringement is one of the top worries Internet users in the Arab world have when it comes to AI applications.
Rabea Ataya, CEO of Bayt.com, said that even though AI can help enhance our way of life, it gathers "a lot of data" while doing so.
"Artificial intelligence has the promise of facilitating a lot of our lives, but as part of that facilitation, it gathers a lot of information about us and our habits and uses it," he told Khaleej Times. "There's this balance that we have to play as human beings: to what extent are we willing to give up our privacy to machines in order to facilitate our lives.
"Increasingly, every device that we use has some sort of chip connected to the Internet. A lot of that, we believe, facilitates our lives. When you have a built-in GPS in your car, that's wonderful. When you have a phone that you can use to speak to others, that's also wonderful. But at the same time, you're producing a ton of data that can be used for dual purposes - it can be used to hurt you or help you and hopefully, majority of the times it's to help you. The primary concern with people is privacy. They feel that if it's in the wrong hands, it has the potential to be more harmful then helpful."
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