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Will artificial intelligence really improve our lives?

Written by Philip Boucher,

Should we fear the future? 

Should we fear the future ?Humans are, on the whole, living longer and healthier lives than ever before. For many, these basic measures are enough to conclude that the world is becoming a better place. However, when we look at the headlines, it is clear that there remains a great deal of human suffering. Indeed, if we consider the growing threats of climate change, rising sea levels and mass extinction, as well as nuclear threats and political instability, some would find few reasons to be cheerful. Depending upon which variables we prioritise (equality, biodiversity, violence, poverty, CO2 levels, conflict, ozone layer depletion), and how we measure them, we can make rational arguments for optimistic or pessimistic views on the future of humanity.

Is it rational to be optimistic about artificial intelligence? 

The picture is equally mixed when we consider new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which are predicted to have a huge impact on the future of humanity, for better or worse. For example, AI could bring substantial benefits to several aspects of our lives, from weather predictions to cancer diagnostics. At the same time, concerns have been raised that it could threaten many jobs and take over important decision-making processes without transparency.

See the video recording of this event

Well-known figures have joined both sides of the debate. For example, Elon Musk shared concerns that AI posed an existential threat to the human race, while Bill Gates countered that the technology will make us more productive and creative. Beyond the headlines, however, both Gates and Musk recognise the opportunities and challenges of AI and call for reflection on how we can manage its development in a way that maximises its benefits without exposing us to danger.

Debating rational optimism and artificial intelligence at the European Parliament

The STOA workshop ‘Should we fear the future? Is it rational to be optimistic about artificial intelligence?’, chaired by Lead STOA Panel Member María Teresa Giménez Barbat (ALDE, Spain), presents an opportunity to learn more about these questions and participate in a debate with key experts in the subject.

The workshop will take place on 19 October 2017 at the European Parliament premises in Brussels, and will open with a keynote lecture from Steven Pinker (Harvard University), author of ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ (2011, Viking Books), which argues that violence in the world is declining in the short- and long-term, and explores how we can maintain this trend into the future. He will introduce the subject of rational optimism and answer the question: ‘Should we fear the future?’

This will be followed by a panel of four speakers who will explore AI technologies within this context, responding to the broad question of whether it is rational to be optimistic about AI. The panel will include presentations from Peter J. Bentley (University College London), Miles Brundage (University of Oxford), Olle Häggström (Chalmers University) and Thomas Metzinger (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz), and will be followed by a Q&A session and a debate with all participants.

Interested in joining the debate? Register to attend or watch the live webstream on the STOA event page.

About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 27 MEPs nominated by 11 EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.


10 thoughts on “Will artificial intelligence really improve our lives?

  1. Is there no way to view audio/video of this after the fact?

    Posted by Elden Abob | October 23, 2017, 16:03
  2. Hi, Eva, I think that YES Artificial Intelligence will improve our lives, here are a propossal by me:
    Dynamic Antidote, all European must do like immune system in human body
    Regards, ok. Ricardo

    Posted by rdolinskideidea | October 20, 2017, 15:39
  3. Great topic for discussion. However, we (me and many of my futurist, future-oriented colleagues) are disappointed that this panel is composed of only men. In 2017, we would hope for better gender representation.

    Posted by Annette Markham | October 19, 2017, 10:53
    • Really? Gender is the crucial criteria for you when it comes to inviting speakers? Definitely not my future.

      Posted by Robert Schichl | October 19, 2017, 14:25
      • Robert Schichl, were you involved in organising this event? Because it certainly looks as though gender – MALE gender – was a criteria for inviting speakers to this event. It’s got to be quite difficult to come up with a cast of nine men and no women at all and it’s certainly unlikely that you have found the BEST speakers if you’ve not got any women – it’s very unlikely that all the best speakers are men. Quite apart from missing out on some of the best speakers, there is massive research showing that diversity in groups is key for innovative thinking. So there’s another way you’re missing out. What a pity.

        Posted by Jill Walker Rettberg | October 19, 2017, 21:19
      • Annette: you should realise that the future of artificial intelligence will only concern men. Only men will be affected by climate change, rising sea levels, nuclear threats, political instability and be subjected to violence, and it is only men whose lives will be shaped by the future of AI, and thus it is only right and correct that no women are on the panel as the future does not concern them. It is true that there are many women, like yourself, who are currently doing valuable and interesting research on the future but don’t worry as it is only men that need to be fearful/optimistic about the future direction of the planet.

        Posted by Lemmy Caution | October 20, 2017, 09:26
    • We are glad that you enjoyed the workshop.
      We strive for gender diversity on our panels; however, sometimes it doesn’t work out (and often at the last minute). While we realise that we didn’t succeed with this event, the two Members of Parliament on the panel – who will be considering the implications of AI on the future of all Europeans – are both women (Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), Chair of STOA and Lead STOA Panel Member, María Teresa Giménez Barbat (ALDE, Spain). See also our other events, New technologies and Regional Policy event for instance, where the panel was more balanced in terms of gender.

      Posted by EPRS Admin | October 24, 2017, 15:23


  1. Pingback: Artificial intelligence is revolutionising our future: opportunities and challenges | European Parliamentary Research Service Blog - July 3, 2020

  2. Pingback: Will artificial intelligence really improve our lives? | - October 16, 2017

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