According to Stanford’s recently released annual AI Index, 58 percent of large companies report adopting artificial intelligence (AI) in at least one function or business unit in 2019—an increase of 23 percent from the prior year. Jack Clark, policy director at OpenAI and a member of the AI Index’s steering committee, recently spoke with Datamation about some top trends emerging from this year’s report, among them:

AI Development is a Global Initiative 

There is a notion that the U.S. is leading the charge in AI development and research, but the Index found that various international players are all relatively equal in their grasp and utilization of the technology. According to Clark, AI development “is not just an academic exercise, it’s not just a thing being pursued by a small number of narrow commercial interests either…It’s being pursued by this global plurality of organizations and groups.” Further underscoring AI’s worldwide appeal, Singapore, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and India experienced the fastest growing rate of hiring for AI-related roles from 2015 to 2019.

Algorithmic Improvements Open Up New Possibilities 

According to the Index, “In a year and a half, the time required to train a large image classification system on cloud infrastructure has fallen from about three hours in October 2017 to about 88 seconds in July 2019. During the same period, the cost to train such a system has fallen similarly.” Praising the industry’s ability to integrate new research insights into an “economically meaningful AI task,” Clark summarizes, “The past 18 to 24 months has changed all of civilization—the implications of this are huge.”

Ethics Questions Loom 

Ethical challenges are a top AI concern, with questions around fairness, interpretability, and explainability frequently mentioned in the Index. Another pressing issue is AI’s potential to be exploited for nefarious purposes—something we recently explored at the APEX of Innovation. Clark elaborates, “I think most AI developers are going to try and do things for good reasons and then they’re going to announce, ‘Oh we’ve just released a system that can make any drone navigate to a specific face that you give it. So we’ve done that for sports.’ Except obviously, that’s not going just to get used for sports. It’s going to get used for all kinds of things.” Stressing the importance of developer culpability, he argues that it’s critical that the AI community engage in ongoing conversations about the technology’s impact so that ethical concerns are always considered in the development process.

Check out the highlights of Clark’s conversation here for more AI Index trends, including AI and the job market, regulatory scrutiny, and how the workforce is preparing for more mature AI technologies.