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Bill Magee
Scotland launching groundbreaking mandatory AI Register


Scottish public and private organisations are being warned that hyped-up advanced artificial intelligence (genAI) marketing campaigns hurtling in their direction at cyberspeed can easily nudge, off-kilter, their digital compass.

An unprecedented era of artificial intelligence - generativeAI - requires a much needed moment of insight and with it commercial clarity to what has been labelled an "AI cyber arms race" coming ever-rapidly around the digital curve.

Big Tech's early attempts, through hastily designed and hyped-up marketing campaigns to sell their version of genAI, are having a detrimental effect. Leading to a danger of organisations becoming uncertain about just what is the right digital road ahead.

Trillions of new business dollars are up for grabs for the winner so the cyber race is well and truly on. Coming at a time when control over how AI is rolled out is urgently needed. An early indication of a market response reveals how Apple has had to respond to demands by two top UK fund managers .

Edinburgh-headquartered Abrdn (formerly Standard Life Aberdeen plc) - and Legal & General Investment Management called for clarity on the AI ethical policies of arguably the largest company on the planet, amid growing concerns over deepfakes and customer privacy.

Since then Abrdn, holding a 1 billion investment in Amazon, has demanded it toughens monitoring its AI usage, partly by establishing an independent directors committee to deal with its impact on human rights.

It comes in the wake of protests over the tech giant's Alexa voice systems reported to have falsely claimed the 2020 US presidential election was "stolen" from Donald Trump. Amazon is resisting the Abrdn call claiming it can deal with issues through in-house director committees.

Expect more such investor pressure to ensure AI is reliable. Also, let's hope the news from Tech Nation follows through: that in an "historic first" the UK and South Korea have secured agreement of 16 global tech companies safety commitments on AI development.

They include Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, to ensure accountable governance structures and public transparency on their approaches to frontier AI safety. Britain and the United States have already signed a landmark deal to test AI safety.

Scotland isn't hanging around. The country is taking a proactive stance by introducing a mandatory logging of public sector AI, with all this means to the innumerable tendered supply chain organisations that rely on government-based contracts for their commercial livelihoods.

The "Scottish AI Register" is voluntary for the moment but ministers have promised organisations will soon be required to adhere to formal usage case-file scrutiny.

It is backed up by the University of Edinburgh's bold new multi-million pound initiative aimed at leading a new era of generative AI to benefit society and stimulate economic growth. Techniques are being developed in key areas including robotics, drug discovery, medical diagnoses, semiconductor development and tackling climate change.

Out in cyberspace genAI is led by an online army of computerized software programs - (ro)bots/co-pilots/super apps - algorithmically designed to appear to be thinking and taking decisions for you and me.

Techopedia points to "autonomous AI" operating and processing data without human interaction or oversight. It all adds ammunition to warnings of a "weaponisation" of latest tech developments.

More than 100 AI researchers have written an open letter calling on generative companies to allow investigators access to gain insight into often opaque AI systems, that Computing.com claims is leading to "repeated and dramatic misunderstandings" about modern IT.

Computerworld cites a survey of 10,000 office workers who, whilst seeing a range of benefits from AI tools, worry about a lack of clear guidelines leading to potential risks to corporate data.

The AI Experience website reveals an overwhelming 96 per cent of chief data officers surveyed agree delivering business impact through the new tech represents the top "pain point" for their teams.

Free Man Sunset illustration and picture
A time for quiet reflection and switch-off from the relentless 24/7 digital pressures.

It has also prompted a novel transatlantic memorandum of understanding between the UK and the USA, a partnership based on endeavouring to ensure AI solutions always lead with trust and user-security in mind.

There are positives as to the future of work in these early stages of genAI, involving novel "intelligence-based" developments especially in healthcare some say hails a medical revolution in the offing.

There's even "Robotiz3d" equipped to tackle one million-plus potholes throughout UK roads, coming to the roadside rescue of weary motorists but as TechMarketView points out ruefully: "it seems like no matter how many are fixed another two pop up in its place!

Chatbots are already used extensively across ecommerce. Internet Retailing points to imminent more sophisticated genAI technologies, bespoke and highly-conversational 2-way answering techniques with claims of a more realistic interaction between brand and consumer.

We're heading towards so-called a "super app" AI global culture. Just how to filter out the commercially useful from the problematic, will be, well problematic.

China's WeChat already combines social media, messaging, payment and commerce all in one offering. Add to this Elon Musk's rebranding of Twitter to X, laying the groundwork to turn the entire platform into a super app.

Big Tech marketers are hastily hyping a genAI assistant - dubbed "Copilot" - for every department. Such "general purpose technology" features a variety of IT tools, models, applications and product designs to generate new forms of creative content including audio, code, images, text, simulations and videos. The digital works.

It's the wise organisation that formulates a threat strategy, leveraging AI and machine learning to detect and respond to a mix of real-time commercial opportunities but also carrying potential threats.

A medium-to-long-term worry is eventual digital transformational "burnout" as business suffers copilot fatigue. Burgeoning AI-powered facial and voice cloning is also causing concern.

So where do we go from here? We've some way to go to build the necessary levels of transparency and trust. Especially when it comes to feeling confident in exposing an enterprise to AI copilots and whatever else follows in their digital slipstream.

It's not all doom and gloom.

New Scientist tech quarterly carries the claim: "AIs will make health care safer and better (and)...may even be cheaper." Similarly, a TED talk contends how AI "could save (not destroy) education. Both key sectors inextricably-linked to the economy. MIT Technology Report attempts to bring some cyber relief by reminding us new tech always has "glitches and fails". Whatever the next development.

It's evident that a lot of heavy lifting is ahead if Scotland is to gain real and long-lasting traction from its strategy to fulfil its AI promise and be attractive to a new generation of investors.

It involves successfully tackling what amounts to a labyrinthine inventory of computer systems holding innumerable intellectual property sources. Whilst providing cyber guardrails for commercially sensitive public and private trade secrets up for grabs by sophisticated hackers and scammers.

At stake are software supply chains involving hospitals, power grids, nuclear plants, universities, water supplies, "intelligent" lighting, waste management systems, social housing, sustainable communities. You name it.

They have one factor in common: each are heavy in data which ITPro describes as the "new gold" in terms of Big Tech expectations of big bucks. But whatever area, one thing's for certain. There's bound to be a AI super app for that...


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