CAIRO—The Middle East and North Africa region needs to be more involved in the global debate about the development of artificial intelligence-related technology, says a new report that examines the narratives about technological futures that are widespread in the Arab world.
Narratives about future uses of robots and intelligent machines—how a culture portrays them in areas including history, literature, art and films—can influence the development and reception of artificial intelligence (AI), says the report. Yet Western perspectives typically dominate AI discussions, it says, and Arab perspectives are largely missing.
Titled “Imagining a Future With Artificial Machines: A Middle Eastern and North African Perspective,” the report was issued earlier this month by the Access to Knowledge for Development Center at the American University in Cairo’s School of Business and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Cambridge.
It notes the MENA region’s rich history and culture and the ability of its youth to employ technology as a means of expression, by presenting literary works based on science fiction or by their economic participation in technology-based start-ups, which can help create new business models suitable for the future and contribute to providing job opportunities in an area where young people make up a large majority of the population. (See a related article, “Why Business Schools Need to Teach Artificial Intelligence.”)
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“The region might not be rich in technology compared to developed countries,” said Nagla Rizk, a professor of economics and founding director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center, who is a co-author of the report. “However,” she added, “it has a rich stock of culture and history that manifests in technological narratives in different ways.”