AI for Good Global Summit: What did we learn?

Ava Chisling
June 19, 2017

From June 7–9, an important conference on artificial intelligence took place in Geneva. Called AI for Good Global Summit, many parties with an interest in the AI boom discussed how to ensure the technology is used for many different purposes, not only profit. Everyone from Amnesty International and the World Health Organization to IBM, Google and Microsoft, examined the ethical, technical, societal and policy issues related to AI. The goal was to “offer recommendations and guidance, and promote international dialogue and cooperation in support of AI innovation.” The conference was broadcast live worldwide so anyone with an interest in AI could e-attend.

As an introduction to the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “AI is advancing dramatically. It is already transforming our world, socially, economically and politically. We face a new frontier with advances moving at warp speed. AI can help analyze enormous volumes of data, which in turn can help improve predictions, prevent crimes, and help governments better serve people… Artificial Intelligence has the potential to accelerate progress towards a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for all people.”

AI for Good

There is often talk about how to use technology for the greater good and some people do more than talk. From low-cost smart tractors to a water purifying straw, the tech we take for granted is being adapted and put to use in countries where it saves lives. There is machine-learning and satellite imagery to predict poverty. “AI and satellite remote-sensing data can predict crop yields months ahead of harvest, hoping to anticipate food shortages. And the UN children’s charity UNICEF is investing in work to test whether deep learning can diagnose malnutrition from photographs and videos of children.” (

On June 7, Jamie Condliffe wrote in the MIT Technology Review, “It’s […] unfair to suggest that AI hasn’t been put to good use already. Facebook has developed machine-learning software to work out from aerial imagery exactly which parts of the world are inhabited, in a bid to deliver the entire world Internet. Amazon has worked with satellite providers to use AI to identify and track, say, the growth of shantytowns. And IBM has experimented with using artificial intelligence to ease China’s smog problems.”

And yet, at the same time, according to, “In the world’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, artificial intelligence (AI) systems are starting to steer self-driving cars down the streets, and homeowners are giving orders to their smart voice-controlled speakers. But the AI revolution has yet to offer much help to the 3 billion people globally who live in poverty.”

So it is time the global community discusses artificial intelligence and how it too can be used for the greater good. And the Summit, which aimed to “accelerate and advance the development and democratization of AI solutions that can address specific global challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, and others,” is a good start.

Jeremy Wilks of Euronews writes, “The challenge ahead is how to harness all of this digital power for the common good, to keep it regulated and safe, respecting privacy, driving down inequality and promoting economic growth for all. It’s widely believed that ICTs, with AI at their heart, can help the UN reach its Sustainable Development Goals for our planet. Yet the reality is that there are no clear roadmaps ahead for regulating Artificial Intelligence. Now, at least, there’s agreement that there is a pressing need to create one.”

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Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.