Have you heard The Beatles’ new song “Now and Then?” Recently, the legendary band, now down to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, released its “latest single.” The widely acclaimed offering is a prime example of AI for the collective good.
The song was recorded by John Lennon at home, singing and playing the piano into a tape recorder. For years after his untimely death, band members tried to reproduce the song, but the task was shelved due to the overly muddled quality of the recording. It was not until the recent maturation of AI-based technology, which can differentiate between singing and piano sounds, that a poignant and poetic finale was provided for The Beatles.
Listening to Lennon’s voice, I am reminded of the similarly prematurely lost cybersecurity luminary and founder of Let’s Encrypt, Peter Eckersley. In recent years, Eckersley observed that while AI was evolving rapidly, it also began to pose risks to human society. Last year he founded The AI Objectives Institute (AOI) , with the hope that AI could “help humanity become better.”
But in the midst of fervent preparations, Eckersley was lost to cancer. Fortunately, with widespread support, AOI continues to drive numerous experiments and studies to this day. One pilot project is Talk to the City.
The AI tool categorizes online comments, videos or statements into themes representing various opinions. Beyond creating visual graphs to fully present everyone’s statements, its conversational language models also reflect data-informed thinking patterns. This affords more people the chance to understand different viewpoints.
Previously, the Ministry of Digital Affairs utilized this mechanism during the Ideathon, organizing participants’ thoughts on topics such as AI ethics and government use of data and AI. Those who did not participate in the workshop could understand participants’ views, as well as engage in “dialogues” with AI to discover intersections of differing opinions, making decisions that stand on common ground without harming anyone.
The experiences of “Now And Then” and Talk to the City show the world how AI transcends time and tide, turning the impossible into possible: a beloved music group disbanded for over 50 years can release a new song, and important discussions can continue developing after conclusion. It is evident that if AI is properly integrated into public infrastructures, it has the potential to help humanity become better.
A good place to start is with the Government Data Open Platform. This integrates AI public code, making it easier for users to find the open data they need and give feedback for corrections. In addition, we will prioritize the municipal services number “1999” of local governments in the next four years, in order to alleviate the administrative burden on civil servants, as well as enhance access to public services.
Going forward, AI won’t be merely a digital tool for occasional use every now and then. Through open-source collaboration and societal evaluation, we are shaping up a foundation where responsible AI enables us to free the future — together.