Emerging Technologies

3 ways global youth is securing responsible AI

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When convening youth and incorporating their views on developing responsible AI, empowering them to turn those views into action is vital to yield results. Image: Possessed/Unsplash

Saif Malhem
Advisory Council, Montreal Hub, Global Shapers Community
Nupur Ruchika Kohli
Global Shaper, Amsterdam Hub, Achmea Holding N.V.
Lorny Pfeifer
Alumna, Global Shapers Community
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  • Millennials and Gen Z constitute most technology users, making them key stakeholders in the digital economy.
  • Our youth should be upskilled in critical areas and recognised as responsible stewards and designers of future technology.
  • Through programmes like AI4ALL, high school students examined inequalities, enhanced the criminal justice system, and improved patient outcomes.

Today, more than half of the world’s population is under 30 years old, representing a generation of the most connected, educated, and integrated youths in history. The Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum recognises young people as critical stakeholders in shaping and delivering a sustainable, equitable and resilient future.

Rethinking the past, present, and future

Concurrently, with artificial intelligence at the helm of what has been named the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technological change is shaping and re-shaping the world around us with unprecedented velocity, scope, and systems impact. Thought leaders are drawing similarities between today’s overall state of flux - be it political, societal, or economic - and prior periods in history. Some have been doing so by putting these changes in the context of revolving generational patterns and archetypes.

Moreover, pundits are acknowledging the rising call for understanding the present - and today’s Global North and Global South dynamics - through the lens of colonialism and explaining the root causes of the climate crisis by citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth and most recent report. Correspondingly, these calls have also become part of the artificial intelligence discourse, as seen in the movement to decolonize AI, for example. These discussions identify capitalism as the original motive for colonial practices and draw parallels to today’s technological scene, which, in turn, yields to the growing conversation about rethinking our economic paradigms and models.

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Today’s youth think globally and contextually in terms of the past, the present and the future. In the Millennial Manifesto, created in tandem with the Global Shapers Community’s 10th anniversary, youth state: “We will listen and learn from one another – past, present, and future. We will respect the global context and that all parts of the world co-exist. We will test, iterate, and improve our approach to become better leaders and ancestors.”

In terms of technology and artificial intelligence, younger generations constitute the majority of users - particularly Millennials, with 95% of teens now using or having access to a smartphone. In fact, in 2019, the Berkman Klein Centre at Harvard University published a report titled "Youth and Artificial Intelligence: Where We Stand", concluding that, given their role as central stakeholders in the digital economy, youths need to be empowered to become designers of the digital future. Failing to do so means neglecting to cultivate a generation of stewards of future technology.

As millennials and Gen Z have grown up with technology, young people have a vital role in ensuring responsible AI around the globe.
As millennials and Gen Z have grown up with technology, young people have a vital role in ensuring responsible AI around the globe. Image: AI Future Lab

With that in mind, the questions become: How can we harness the unique perspective of the youth of today, who benefits from the aggregated knowledge and wisdom of previous generations? And how might this perspective be leveraged to create responsible AI and build a peaceful, prosperous, and conscientious future that bypasses previous faults? There are three strategies youth started deploying to amplify their voice and channel their talent into AI. Leaders and organisations of different sectors can emulate these tactics to further support the next generation of leaders in AI.

Convening

UNICEF affirms that, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, every person under 18 years has the right to participate in decision-making processes that impact them. This includes a public forum through which to express their views and the support for them to do it.

In the Global Shapers Community, the next-generation leaders have built community-centric projects to bridge the AI literacy gap, particularly for girls, from Casablanca’s Simple AI to Munich’s Women’s Digital Fellowship. By convening, they discuss what AI means to them and what they believe responsible AI will represent in the world. By uniting youth from several continents, we can secure their stakeholder status in multilateral convenings and ensure their voices do not go unnoticed - as UNFCCC did in 2009 with the intergovernmental climate change convenings.

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How is the World Economic Forum ensuring the responsible use of technology?

Empowerment

When convening youth and incorporating their views on developing responsible AI, empowering them to turn those views into action is vital to yield results. Empowerment takes place in three specific steps. The first step concerns upskilling youth in the areas necessary to contribute critically. That includes technical skills, such as programming and data science, through Kaggle’s Data Science BootCamp or Global Shapers' Career Nub and Fireblaze AI School. It also includes AI governance and policy through fellowships at the Centre for AI and Digital Policy and AI clinics. Students should be equipped with appropriate resources at every corner of their educational journey to cultivate a critical understanding of ethical choices in technology development.

The second step is to provide access to networks and channels for partnerships and collaborations. OMDENA, for example, is a global community with a platform to gather and collaboratively build AI solutions to real-world problems. More regionally, Indaba is leading a movement to strengthen machine learning in Africa, whilst Khipu and Tierra Común are guiding Latin America. The third step is to enable access to funding to translate the harnessed skills into solutions, projects, and impact.

Convening, Empowerment and Action are three strategies youth started deploying to amplify their voice and channel their talent into responsible AI.
Convening, Empowerment and Action are three strategies youth started deploying to amplify their voice and channel their talent into responsible AI. Image: AI Future Lab

Action

The Global Shapers Community is a community of dialogue, action, and change. We aim to reduce inequalities worldwide by taking action. One way is mobilising youth to build their own reaponsible AI initiatives, be it technical or policy and governance-related, and positioning them as an equal in any given AI ecosystem to influence the trajectory of the technology.

A great example is the Stanford-incubated AI4ALL programme that targets high school students. Using AI, it produced projects to examine inequalities, improve the criminal justice system, improve patient outcomes, and provide feedback to surgeons through computer vision. Intel’s AI for Youth created projects covering cyber-bullying, energy efficiency and educational support. With the AI Future Lab, the Global Shapers are also taking action by writing the World Youth AI manifesto, launched at the ITU Generation Connect global conference in Rwanda. Thus, as millennials and Gen Z have grown up with technology, young people have a vital role in ensuring responsible AI around the globe, not only for themselves but also for the benefit of their peers.

What are the next steps towards responsible AI?

Young people will continue to convene, empower, and act through the AI Future Lab and Global Shapers. They also call upon decision-makers to act in two ways. Firstly, when it comes to technology and AI, start including youth on decision-making tables in both the private and public sectors in the short term. Decision makers can tap into young changemakers' unique perspectives and problem-solving capabilities and lay the foundation to connect with more of their peer networks.

Secondly, in the long term, there is a need to reflect on how you can deploy, convene, empower, and act in an organization's engagement around responsible AI, or support those implementing them at an AI Ecosystem level. During the Annual Global Shapers Summit at the World Economic Forum, the AI Future Lab and Global Shapers Cross Hub Project Shaping AI inspired and activated youth leaders to join other young people in this movement to advocate for the inclusive and responsible use of AI.

The AI Youth Manifesto is a prime example of galvanizing youth action through leadership. With the help of young leaders, major companies can incorporate more conscientious AI and technology practices into their responsible leadership plans. Only by listening to the voice of the youth might we become better stewards of future technology.

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