Tortoise Media Global AI Summit Recap

Jacquelyn Soh
December 15, 2020

The Global AI Summit marked the release of Tortoise Media’s 2020 Global AI Index, a critical research in its second iteration that benchmarks 64 nations on their level of investment, innovation and implementation of artificial intelligence.


The one-day virtual summit featured discussions that were grounded in the themes and findings of the Index.  More than 1500 participants tuned in globally to explore the political, social, and ethical implications of an AI- centric world, with experts like Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, and Dipayan Ghosh, former tech advisor under Barack Obama leading such pertinent conversations.


Dr. Frida Polli, CEO of pymetrics, was invited as a guest speaker in the session on ‘AI’s ugly underbelly: winners and losers of the workforce’. Alongside her fellow panellists, Christine Foster, CCO of The Alan Turing Institute, Taavi Kotka, first CIO for the government of Estonia, and Jean-François Gagne, CEO of ElementAI, the group explored the inequity that is fueling – and is fueled by – the mania around AI today, and what can we do to bridge the divide before it’s too late.


Here are some takeaways from the session:

Unequal valuation of AI work perpetuates job vulnerability


There are several fault lines marring the AI economy today.


To start, there is a clear gender preference in who gets to drive AI innovation and research. Males consistently dominate the field, from getting more of their research published to securing top positions in companies. 


The opportunities are even more dismal for the less educated and lower-skilled segments of the workforce, who are disproportionately concentrated in the global south. Individuals here are often relegated to low-waged jobs like data labelling and cleaning, which are highly needed but also highly exploited because of their invisibility in the AI ‘supply chain’.  

The gash of the pandemic is likely to widen the gap in the months ahead. 


Policies and technology to right the imbalance


Reassuringly, there is increasing acknowledgment of the massive human force behind a good AI product. 

The task of AI developers and policy makers is not to do away with the lower-skilled jobs, but to unearth the circumstances that have allowed for exploitation. Private and public sector actors must work together to disrupt the systems that have long- sustained bias against certain populations, and install safeguards to ensure that we are not left with an even more vulnerable workforce when these tasks do eventually become obsolete.


Complementary to long term course-correctors like educational reforms and government regulations is technology. Digital platforms have made patterns of exploitation much easier to identify and target, while talent solutions like pymetrics can help to mobilize non-traditional candidates into new industries and functions by focusing on soft skills, which are more equally distributed among the population than hard skills.


There is still hope to create a more equitable workforce for the future, but we must begin to repair AI’s ugly underbelly in good faith now.


Click here to watch the session recording: AI's ugly underbelly: winners and losers of the workforce