South Africa: Artificial Intelligence - Where Are the Users?


One argument that is reaching the status of common sense is that Artificial Intelligence is catalysing a new revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Fearing being left behind as the rest of the world revolutionises, South Africa is scrambling madly to catch up.

Claims abound that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can rescue our ailing retail and manufacturing sectors. President Cyril Ramaphosa has even appointed a Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to promote what he calls an "entrepreneurial state... [which will] assist government in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution".

The one voice that is largely missing in the noise about AI is the users of AI-driven systems, and by now, that includes most of us. Users are an important constituency as these systems are generally trained using our data, but the means by which they do so are opaque.

Automated decisions using AI are difficult to challenge, which make them ripe for abuse in ways that threaten basic rights and freedom. Elections can be distorted through AI-powered disinformation, and people can be falsely accused of a crime if they are profiled incorrectly.

Yet, despite the dangers, information regulators are struggling to defend users' rights as AI...

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