Artificial intelligence (AI) is on a winning streak. In 2005, five teams successfully completed the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition held by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to spur development of autonomous vehicles. In 2011, IBM’s Watson system beat out two longtime human champions to win Jeopardy! In 2016, Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo system defeated the 18-time world-champion Go player. And thanks to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa, consumers now have easy access to a variety of AI-powered virtual assistants to help manage their daily lives. The potential uses of AI to identify patterns, learn from experience, and find novel solutions to new challenges continue to grow as the technology advances.
Moreover, AI is already having a major positive impact in many different sectors of the global economy and society. For example, humanitarian organizations are using intelligent chatbots to provide psychological support to Syrian refugees, and doctors are using AI to develop personalized treatments for cancer patients. Unfortunately, the benefits of AI, as well as its likely impact in the years ahead, are vastly underappreciated by policymakers and the public. Moreover, a contrary narrative—that AI raises grave concerns and warrants a precautionary regulatory approach to limit the damages it could cause—has gained prominence, even though it is both wrong and harmful to societal progress.
To showcase the overwhelmingly positive impact of AI, this report describes the major uses of AI and highlights 70 real-world examples of how AI is already generating social and economic benefits. Policymakers should consider these benefits as they evaluate the steps they can take to support the development and adoption of AI.
The examples in this report cover 14 sectors of the economy and society, yet they only scratch the surface of the many ways that AI is driving innovation, generating substantial social and economic value, and transforming everyday life around the globe. As with any new technology, there will inevitably be detractors who fear change and how it might impact them. While policymakers should respond to legitimate concerns, they should not allow alarmists to delay progress. Instead, they should remain steadfastly focused on accelerating the development and adoption of AI to usher in its many benefits.