Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping economies, promising to generate productivity gains, improve efficiency and lower costs. It contributes to better lives and helps people make better predictions and more informed decisions. These technologies, however, are still in their infancy, and there remains much promise for AI to address global challenges and promote innovation and growth. As AI’s impacts permeate our societies, its transformational power must be put at the service of people and the planet.

At the same time, AI is also fuelling anxieties and ethical concerns. There are questions about the trustworthiness of AI systems, including the dangers of codifying and reinforcing existing biases, such as those related to gender and race, or of infringing on human rights and values, such as privacy. Concerns are growing about AI systems exacerbating inequality, climate change, market concentration and the digital divide. No single country or actor has all the answers to these challenges. We therefore need international co-operation and multi-stakeholder responses to guide the development and use of AI for the wider good.

This book, Artificial Intelligence in Society, examines the AI landscape and highlights key policy questions. Its goal is to help build a shared understanding of AI in the present and near term, and to encourage a broad dialogue on important policy issues, such as labour market developments and upskilling for the digital age; privacy; accountability of AI-powered decisions; and the responsibility, security and safety questions that AI generates.

The book draws on the work of the AI group of experts at the OECD, formed in 2018 to scope principles to facilitate innovation, adoption and trust in AI. Their debates inspired the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Artificial Intelligence – the first intergovernmental standard on AI – adopted by all OECD members and by several partner countries on 22 May 2019. This work emphasises the need for international co-operation to shape a policy environment that fosters trust in and adoption of AI.

Looking ahead, we must progress together on AI-related technical, ethical and legal issues, in order to foster the alignment of standards and codes of conduct while ensuring the inter-operability of laws and regulations. This is urgent, given the speed of developments and the breadth of applications. It is thus no surprise that AI is a top priority on national and international agendas including in the G7 and G20.

Adoption of the Recommendation and creation of a global dialogue are vital first steps. But there is much more to be done. With the establishment of the OECD AI Policy Observatory later this year, we are bringing our analytical, measurement and policy expertise to bear on largely uncharted territory. The Observatory – an inclusive hub for public policy on AI – will help countries encourage, nurture and monitor the responsible development of trustworthy AI systems for the benefit of society.

Moving forward, the OECD is gearing up to move from principles to action. We are determined to help countries implement the Recommendation to ensure that our societies and economies harness the full promise of AI, sharing its benefits broadly and putting the right safeguards in place so that no one is left behind –now and for generations to come.


Angel Gurría



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