2018 is the year that experts need to communicate both sides of the artificial intelligence debate to the public says Rob McCargow, artificial intelligence programme leader at PwC.

The comment follows the release of the Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence report, in which twenty six experts predict the technology will become weaponised within five years.

The report says that within that time it’s plausible that AI will advance the threats to digital, physical and political security by allowing for large-scale, finely targeted, highly efficient attacks.

McCargow agrees there are potential risks, but believes that 2018 represents an important juncture in framing the public discourse around the application of AI – both positive and negative.

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“Our research has shown that AI could bring significant economic benefits, with the potential to add £232bn to the UK economy alone by 2030,” he said.

“We’re already starting to see it showing high promise in positive use cases to tackle important problems, for example in healthcare (for diagnosis and drug discovery) and solving environmental challenges.

“Now is the time for the AI community to engage the public in the right way; talking through the myriad opportunities that AI has to offer, but also the risks if it isn’t done responsibly.

“Otherwise, we could miss out on securing their buy-in and support which is critical if AI is ever to be widely adopted.

“The discussion around whether there is sufficient regulation of AI is a topic gaining traction amongst governments both in the UK and globally.”

In order to move forward a fine balance must be achieved to ensure innovation is not stifled says McCargow.

“We need to take a considered, careful path to ensure we have the opportunity to apply AI to solve some of our most important problems, while being mindful that there are very real and novel risks emerging as this technology matures,” he said.

“We also need to take into account ethical considerations. It’s encouraging to see that the report call for an expansion in the variety of stakeholders involved in discussing these challenges.

“The positive benefits of AI will only be realised if we have the broadest and most representative participation across business, government, academia and wider society, including the general public.”