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The AI Governance Challenge

Masayoshi Son, CEO of the Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank and an enthusiastic investor in AI, recently said that his company seeks “to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile.” But if AI is truly to make people happier, let alone make society as a whole better off, we have to get the rules and standards right.

PARIS – On the sidelines of the last World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Singapore’s minister of communications and information quietly announced the launch of the world’s first national framework for governing artificial intelligence. While the global media have glossed over this announcement, its significance reaches well beyond the borders of Singapore or the Swiss town where it was made. It is an example that the rest of the world urgently should follow – and build upon.

Over the last few years, Singapore’s government, through the state-led AI Singapore initiative, has been working to position the country to become the world’s leader in the AI sector. And it is making solid progress: Singapore – along with Shanghai and Dubai – attracted the most AI-related investment in the world last year. According to one recent estimate, AI investment should enable Singapore to double the size of its economy in 13 years, instead of 22.

Of course, AI’s impact extends globally. According to a recent McKinsey report, AI could add up to 16% to global GDP growth by 2030. Given this potential, the competition for AI investment and innovation is heating up, with the United States and China predictably leading the way. Yet, until now, no government or supranational body has sought to develop the governance mechanisms needed to maximize AI’s potential and manage its risks.

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