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Editorial: Understanding of AI’s capabilities, drawbacks needed for wise use

  • September 6, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 1:51 p.m.
  • English Press

Products and services equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly being used in our daily lives. They must be used wisely, by understanding the nature of AI.


In AI, computers process large amounts of information to analyze them and make decisions. While conventional products operate within a range that was set beforehand, AI products can increase the accuracy of their operations by continuously accumulating user data and learning from that.


A user has only to talk to smart speakers that use AI voice recognition for the speakers to perform such tasks as operating home appliances, or searching for necessary information and conveying that information to the user.


Vacuum cleaner robots use built-in cameras and other devices to understand the shape of a room and the position of furniture, and then operate autonomously.


AI products can be expected to reduce the burden of household chores and enrich our lives.


On the other hand, there have been reports of such problems as smart speakers ordering goods unnecessarily after wrongly interpreting voices, and vacuum cleaner robots breaking household items due to unexpected moves.


AI products are not a panacea. It is important is for consumers to understand what they can and cannot do, and to use them correctly, rather than accepting the judgment of AI without question.


The Consumer Affairs Agency has created a guidebook on the use of AI products, based on a report by an expert panel. It uses illustrations to explain the advantages and points of caution related to different products and services. It will be useful in promoting user understanding.


Many people have a negative image of AI.


According to a survey by the agency, about 80% of people answered that AI “enriches our lives,” while more than 50% each responded “It is concerning” and “I am somehow afraid” of AI.


About half of the respondents hold security concerns, such as the use of personal information for other purposes and the leakage of information.


In light of this situation, providers of AI products and services should be aware of consumers’ concerns and provide balanced explanations about both the convenience and risks of AI products and services.


The scope of use of the acquired data, and where responsibility lies in the event of a problem, also needs to be clarified.


The government has so far focused on discussions on the development of AI and rules for its use, but in light of the proliferation of AI products, it must also focus on providing information to consumers, strengthening consultation services and consumer education.


It is important to anticipate the possibility of new problems that may arise with the advancement of AI technology and to respond flexibly, including the development of legislation.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 6, 2020.

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