New AI Forum urges NZ to embrace an exploit artificial intelligence

New group was designed to be a centre of gravity for all things AI in New Zealand

The New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech) has launched a new organisation to focus on artificial intelligence and has called on New Zealand to “seriously and swiftly embrace artificial intelligence as an extraordinary opportunity and challenge for the country’s future.”

According to the establishment chair of the AI Forum, Stu Christie, AI will raise major social, ethical and policy issues in almost every sector. “It is critical for New Zealand’s sake that we actively consider, lift awareness of, and prepare for the changes AI will bring,” he said.

Christie said the new group was designed to be a centre of gravity for all things AI in New Zealand, and already included key government agencies, universities and tech firms working together to ensure AI creates a better New Zealand.

“There is a sense of duty to seek a deeper understanding of New Zealand’s potential as an AI-assisted economy and society, to ensure AI is a positive part of New Zealand’s future,” Christie said.

The AI Forum is about to undertake what it says will be a critical piece of research and says it is “looking to all organisations and people with an interest in AI to step forward to ensure we identify the biggest opportunities for New Zealand and mitigate any risks.”

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller said the potential reach of artificial intelligence was pervasive. “The future impacts on the economy and society will be significant and disruptive. Governments, businesses, investors and research institutes around the world are applying ever-greater time and effort into developing and deploying the next generation of AI systems and considering the implications for policy and regulation.

“AI technologies have been rapidly evolving over the past 10 years. They are extensively used already – in tools such as phones, search engines, vehicles, logistics, health services, financial services, industrial processes, public services, and military systems.”

He warned that New Zealand was in danger of falling behind other nations in making the most of AI.

“We know AI is expected to have the largest impact on developed countries that depend on knowledge resources and productivity gains for growth. New Zealand is one such country. Our focus on primary production and our relative underinvestment in technology companies may see us fall behind other counties which are better able to realise productivity gains from AI technologies.”

According to its web site the AI Forum is in its founding period until 30 June 2018 and is governed by an executive council made up of founding members, representatives from New Zealand's entrepreneurial, investment, academic, government, social enterprise and technologist communities. However the web site does not list participating organisations.

The forum promises it will lead a programme of work from 2017 onwards which aims to raise the level of awareness and capabilities of Artificial Intelligence in New Zealand.”

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