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Destination AI: Why Is It Important That Artificial Intelligence Be Understood by All?

Destination AI: Why Is It Important That Artificial Intelligence Be Understood by All?
 Tanya Perelmuter
Director of Strategy & Partnerships, Fondation Abeona
 Milo Rignell
Fellow - AI & Emerging Technologies

In April 2020, Institut Montaigne, OpenClassrooms and Fondation Abeona launched a free, online course designed to give everyone the basic intellectual tools to understand how AI works, how it is affecting our lives and how we might want it to evolve in the future. A year later, 130 000 learners have joined the course and Destination AI is being launched in English, to participate in a broad movement to train over 1% of the global population. You can start the course yourself here.

Why should we all be concerned about how Artificial Intelligence evolves? 

The Covid-19 epidemic has precipitated changes in the use of digital services, many of which are based on Artificial Intelligence - a real paradigm shift in the way we communicate, work, vote, travel, and educate our children. In the domain of healthcare, we are now able to predict breast cancer risk up to four years before it would be spotted by a doctor using traditional imagery, develop personalized treatments and accelerate diagnosis. 

On the other hand, improper use of sensitive data and privacy breaches can produce great harm. Imagine if health providers were to sell information about your medical history to your future employer or deliver a prediction on your life expectancy to an insurance company. Moreover, improperly designed AI algorithms could learn and accentuate the worst human biases, such as sexism and racism, exacerbating discrimination and social injustice. They could also focus on objectives that are not truly aligned with the public interest, such as providing clickable but divisive content. 

Today, Artificial Intelligence is constantly present in our daily lives, whether to help recommend news, videos or friends’ posts, to suggest items we might want to buy, to guide us on our trips to new locations, and in countless other ways. It is critical that we collectively ensure that AI’s considerable power is solely used for good, without causing intentional or unintentional harm. 

How can we maximize the full potential of this new technology, while learning to mitigate its risks?

The key is education - all citizens should have open access to learning the basics of Artificial Intelligence. 

The first benefit from learning about the basics of AI - how it works, where it is used in our daily lives and how it can complement our existing skills - is to make the most of this technology's incredible potential.

It is critical that we collectively ensure that AI’s considerable power is solely used for good. 

This is true of an extremely wide range of people, be it an employee understanding how to work with new tools and adapt to a changing work environment, a business leader looking for ways to improve their product or organisation, a teacher researching new methods to personalize and accompany student learning, or a farmer searching for solutions to optimise crop production. 

Knowing how AI works and where it is used is also essential for collectively holding it accountable. This might be relevant if data is wrongly used, for instance if you receive advertisements for a health product suggested on the basis of your personal health information, if you wish to understand or contest a recruitment decision made by an algorithm’s recommendation, or if you are targeted by false, AI-generated information such as fake images and videos. 

Finally, AI is a sector that is booming, in terms of investment and in terms of employment. Taking the time to educate oneself about the basics of AI might be the start of a fruitful and exciting career! 

For each of these reasons, Institut Montaigne, OpenClassrooms and Fondation Abeona have developed Destination AI, a 6-hour beginner course available online and free for citizens of all ages, doctors, workers, students, political and business leaders - anyone interested in learning what is behind the AI technology, what it is and is not and how to identify where and how data and algorithms are being used

What is the aim of the Destination AI course ? 

Destination AI is part of a broad movement to give over 1% of the global population the basic intellectual tools to understand how AI works and how we collectively want it to evolve

First launched in French, a year later the Destination AI course is already followed by 130 000 learners from all backgrounds - police officers, postal workers, employees and managers in industry, pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies, health professionals, as well as university and school students. With the course now provided in English, Destination AI is freely available to an even wider audience. 

An educated society that understands AI opens room for a transparent public debate. 

An educated society that understands the risks and opportunities provided by AI opens room for a transparent public debate about how we want this technology to integrate our lives and make collective decisions based on scientific knowledge.

In order for AI to be accepted by citizens and professionals alike we need to demystify it first. Trust in AI technology should be our primary goal - understanding that algorithms will not take control of our lives, that Artificial Intelligence is not science fiction but rather, a set of mathematical models that learns on large quantities of data and produces probabilistic predictions. Of course, these models need to be ethically designed to ensure fair, unbiased and desirable outcomes. 

Fear is based on ignorance, and trust is created through understanding and knowledge available to all.


To learn the basics of AI, how it works and how it is changing our lives, start the Destination AI course now!
Sign up here.


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