Singapore to dive deeper into AI development, drive the development of testing standards

06 June 2023 02:38 by Jet Damazo-Santos


Amid ongoing global debates over existential artificial intelligence questions, innovation-friendly Singapore is diving deeper into the technology, saying it will expand the AI testing community and drive the development of AI testing standards.

“Singapore will do what we can to ensure the responsible development and usage of AI,” Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told the opening plenary of a tech summit*.

He pointed out that Singapore was the first country in Asia to establish a model AI governance framework that outlined transparent and fair guiding principles for developing AI. The country's central bank released guidelines aimed at promoting the ethical use of AI and data analytics in finance back in 2018.

Last year, Singapore also launched AI Verify, the world's first testing toolkit to help companies objectively assess and verify whether their AI products are responsible and meet key international principles.

“We will continue to do more on this front, such as expanding the AI testing community and working with industry on pilot projects, driving the development of AI testing standards,” Wong said.

However, the deputy prime minister said that no one had all the answers to the serious concerns posed by this revolutionary new technology, which means collaboration is needed.

“What kind of work should AI be allowed to assist with? How much control over decision making should an AI have? What ethical standards should be put in place to help guide its development? In short, how can we develop AI that is trustworthy and, in so doing, engender wider and widespread acceptance of this new technology?” he said.

“There will be different perspectives on these questions. But what is clear is that no single person, organization or even country will have all the answers. We will all have to come together to engage in critical discussions to determine the appropriate guardrails networking necessary to build more trustworthy AI systems.”

Addressing concerns over job losses, Wong said this challenge wasn't new, as this worry accompanied every wave of new technology in the past.

“I do not believe we will end up with a jobless future, a dystopian jobless future where machines take over humans for everything, and humans become obsolete. Because while technology can replace some tasks, it can also make us more productive and performing other tasks. And by doing so it will create new tasks and new jobs,” he said.

“So what will change really is the nature of jobs, both in blue and white collar occupations, and the pace of change will accelerate. The scale of disruptions will increase with time.”

This would require a comprehensive response from both government and industry, Wong said.

“All parties must work together to identify jobs at risk of disruption and to help workers continually reskill and upskill themselves. We are taking this seriously in Singapore,” he said, and added that other countries should do so as well.

Last month, Singapore's central bank launched a new program that will see it work with both financial institutions and learning institutions to address a talent shortage in AI and data analytics.

The tech world, he said, often wants to move fast and break things. But while this might be necessary for startups, it doesn’t work at a national level.

“Not everyone wants to move fast. And if things are broken, many people get upset,” he said.

“So as countries embark on their digital journeys, what's equally important is the need to slow down from time to time to make sure everyone is on board, that things are done right, so that all citizens are able to move forward together,” he said.

*ATxSG: Redefining Tech for a Better Future, Singapore, June 6-9. 2023

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