Emeritus Prof Eugene Clark, National Academy of Professional Studies
On Dec 2, 2023 was a keynote speaker hosted in Malaysia: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH FOR SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY (ICMASS).
My keynote address was entitled: Strengthening Legal Policies in the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through Research and Innovation to Address Economic Inequality
The primary goal of this conference was to bring together science, technology, and management areas of research. While the Information Age has empowered an ‘explosion of knowledge’ it has resulted in increasingly specialised disciplines that talk seldom talk with one another and indeed create their own new language and vocabulary that makes them even more isolated. My main message was that: If we are to manifest the wisdom to use this new knowledge and technology for the advancement of humanity, we must get better at talking with one another, respecting one another, sharing our insights and finding the best path forward to a sustainable future.
In my short time, I made the following brief points.
If we are going to create a sustainable future we require leadership—at every level of society. In the 21st Century we need to think of leadership not as a pyramid, but as a web with all of our disciplines at the centre of it.
We should also be mindful that “The Leadership Challenge” is in the words of Alan Keith is “ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”
Know also that everyone can be a good leader and good follower in word and deed, inspiring each other to be what we know we can be.
2. Pragmatism/Practicality/Operational excellence
In the world of academia, we tend to over-emphasise theory and ignore the importance of practical applications that make a positive difference in the world. As management expert, Simon Sinek argues: “Pure pragmatism can't imagine a bold future. Pure idealism can't get anything done. It is the delicate blend of both that drives innovation.”
A leading example of someone who combined vision and application is Thomas Edison, who noted: “Vision without execution is but an hallucination.”
We need common-sense, operational excellence. It is easy to tear things down. We need to focus on building things. We need operational excellence--pragmatic, practical, common-sense applications and commitment to making things work and getting things done. We do this by taking one step at a time. As the management mantra goes: “Think big; start small”.
3. Institution Building
Leaders build institutions and institutions build lasting change. In today’s world, it seems that every major institution in society is under attack and failing.
It is vital that professionals from all disciplines use their talents to help strengthen the institutions in society: government, schools, family, law/courts, religious and philanthropic institutions, community groups etc
Paraphrasing former US VP, Hubert Humphrey: The moral test of a sustainable society is how that society and its institutions treat those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are at the twilight of life, the aged; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the homeless, the needy, the disabled, etc. While the world has many things on its agenda, it is imperative that we not forget the important needs of all of these groups.
Special Education Early Childhood Education. I had the opportunity a few years ago to serve at the CEO of a US company that was the largest private provider of special education services in the US. Not only did I meet some of the most amazing and dedicated people I have ever known, but I saw first-hand what a huge difference special education could make in the lives of individuals, their families and the whole community. I received numerous letters from parents thanking our organization for providing a therapist. Typical were the words of one parent who, wrote: “Thank you for giving me back my son.” Because of his speech problems he could not get along with his classmates or even family members. Your intervention changed not only his life, but our lives.” If a child is one of the estimated millions who suffers from autism and as a result cannot communicate effectively, that impacts not only the child’s life chances, but also creates a terrible strain on the family and the community network in which that child is a part.
The latest research indicates that the best investment in early childhood education and special education comes with early intervention, even before the child goes to school. The most effective intervention is that taken while the brain is in these early stages of development.
It is also important that we see people and disabilities, not as ‘problems’ or only as ‘broken’ but that we appreciate the tremendous contribution they can make to the world. This point is eloquently made in this little story by author Kevin Kling, who is himself disabled:
“Back in the days when pots and pans could talk...there lived a man. And in order to have water, every day he had to walk down the hill and fill two pots and walk them home. One day, it was discovered one of the pots had a crack, and as time went on, the crack widened. Finally, the pot turned to the man and said, "You know, every day you take me to the river, and by the time you get home, half of the water's leaked out. Please replace me with a better pot." And the man said, "You don't understand. As you spill, you water the wild flowers by the side of the path." And sure enough, on the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried, beautiful flowers grew, while other side was barren. "I think I'll keep you," said the man.”
We need to see people with disabilities, not for the cracks in their pots and what they don’t have—but for the many special talents they do have and the many blessings they bring to the lives of all of us.
5. Innovation/Entrepreneurship/Law as an example
Innovation and entrepreneurship are keys to the achievement of a prosperous, sustainable society. As Margaret J. Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, reminds us:
"Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries. Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren't there before."
"We are living through an innovation famine, not an innovation feast—particularly in areas other than digital ... if we can do more innovation, we will not destroy the planet. It’s quite the reverse. It’s the safest way of saving the planet." — Matt Ridely speaking with Naval Ravikant
In common with other institutions, the legal system has struggled to keep up with technology and struggled to devise mechanisms whereby all citizens have access to services. In more recent times, however, suggest that new models are emerging that have the potential to re-engineer legal services so that justice and legal services are more accessible to all. Below is a summary of some of the barriers to access and how technology can help.
In general terms technology advancements are leading to new models of learning that are tailored to the needs of individuals. Developments such as the Khan Academy have brought education to millions of people around the world. The higher the level of literacy in a society, the more informed and engaged its citizens will be.
Before the Internet, laws were found mostly in government, law firms and university law libraries. Law books were very expensive. Thanks to "open government" and other social justice and consumer movements, the laws of most countries are today freely available online. Just one of many examples, is the World Legal Information Institute. With almost 2000 databases on this site, one can find laws from over 130 jurisdictions around the world.
Today, websites can monitor activity, interact with users and tailor information and services to the needs of particular users. Aided by AI legal research will offer new solutions and even help resolve disputes.
Software can also help people navigate across many different government programs to help determine whether they are eligible for low-income legal assistance.
Language and cultural barriers
In our diverse and multi-cultural world, it is also important that the laws be made available in multiple languages. For those who do not speak other languages, software translators are rapidly improving. Moreover, many jurisdictions will make the key legal information available in multiple languages that reflect the diversity within their local community.
Software requires rules and standards to be effective across legal systems. This is the focus of projects like the EU Grotius Project 98/GR/131. Its aim is to promote consistent best practice standards in relation to legal interpreting.
Technology also has the potential to help better tailor legal education models to meet the needs of a more diverse student population and thus play a part in serving the educational needs of those underserved by traditional models.
The law is also a language of its own and even native speakers can be intimidated by and alienated from a legal system that uses highly formal and technical language that is only understood by those with professional legal training. Software packages make it easy to provide links that put technical terms in plain language and diagrams that make it easier to see how things fit together.
New models of legal practice, aided by technology, have promise to reduce financial barriers. Leveraging technology (e.g. electronic document assembly) one lawyer can today do the work of many. Virtual law firms mean that lawyers do not have to incur the costs of an expensive office and all the trappings that go with it.
Modern courtroom designs are taking into account the "community of users" who are involved. For example, in Charlotte, North Carolina, jurors are provided with comfortable waiting rooms and various services (food, childcare, business services) that make it more convenient for them to wait as well as enabling them to carry out their daily activities while also doing their civic duty of jury service. Mobile courts are also becoming more common
Legal education barriers
Note the roles that virtue reality, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, gamification and other developments will play in educating the next generation of lawyers about the role of technology in enhancing access to justice
Technology enables a 24/7 world of work and access. In an Internet environment matters can be resolved asynchronously and after hours and not be limited to court times and normal business hours.
Lawyers and judges tend to be highly risk averse. However, in a time of rapid change and transformation, there is a need for the profession to embrace change and become more innovative or face serious disruption. Legal education, admission policies, law firm models, courts, legislatures, governments -- all aspects of the system must adapt and reboot in order to meet the needs/demands of an Information Age and an increasingly inter-connected, diverse and complex world.
The legal profession in every country is highly regulated. In many cases professional bodies, such as bar associations and law societies, play a major role in this regulation. While such regulation offers protection to consumers of legal services, it can also result in anti-competitive effects that have inhibited innovation and made the profession resistant to change.
6 Technology tempered by wisdom
Isaac Asimov, Russian-born American author and biochemist wrote: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." Similarly, Swiss author, Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, concluded: “Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened."
As we see in recent debates about harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), if we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our master and maybe even our executioner.
When watching today’s news with its over-emphasis on all things negative, it is easy to be pessimistic. Indeed, a pandemic of pessimism and cynicism destroys families, undermines institutions and speads gloom and despair to individuals, communities and even whole nations.
Optimism and hope are necessary to inspire and generate the enthusiasm required to make the effort to make things better. As President Franklin D Roosevelt exhorted during the Great Depression: “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”
Finally, it is crucial that we have a sense of urgency. As the poet, Rumi stated so eloquently:
Travelers, it is late.
Life's sun is going to set.
During these brief days that you have strength,
be quick and spare no effort of your wings.
That urgency should be accompanied by a spirit that does not shrink from problems but welcomes them as opportunities to grow and bring about a better society. In this task our motto should be “Ad astra per aspera” ---“To the stars through difficulties.” John James Ingalls
It is my privilege to write this blog. I wish to address three aspects – success and the steps each of us needs to take to achieve it, the actions of a successful student, and some suggestions for you to make it in this exciting pursuit of knowledge.
Success is a very value-loaded term. It is very personal but is shaped by many forces of influence since our childhood. For me, success is the opportunity to have the ability for continuous improvement of myself and the people around me. To have ability depends on context, connection, continuity, change, competition, and cooperation. For Alex, it depends on values and being in tune with herself.
Success is not external it is in you. Significantly, your heart does not lie about success. Please ask yourself what success is for you. You decide for yourself what it is and then decide the steps you need to pursue it.
As Pele, the famous footballer said, success “is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do”. Once you decide what success is for yourself, the next logical step is to position yourself to be successful. It would help if you organized yourself for success. These are some tips for you to follow:
I wish you the very best in your pursuit of success. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your successful journey. Until, next time…
Prof. Sivaram (Ram) Vemuri
Fraud, theft, scams, political disruption and more
AI makes it possible to create deep-fakes, ie fake representations of real people or events. Anyone who spends anytime on the Internet will know that there is a plethora of images, audio and video freely accessible. While some uses of deep-fakes are done for innocent fun, others can amount to spreading false information in the middle of a tight political race. In business deep-fakes can mislead people into believing that a product or service has the endorsement of a particular person or company. Deep-fakes can be used to commit fraud or make other deceitful representations made for illegal and dishonest purposes. It is also possible that deep-fakes become so common that people doubt the legitimacy of all such people or products.
Fake content can cause havoc and panic in the middle of a pandemic, cause chaos in share markets, obstruct justice or falsify information. Criminals are taking advantage of the technology to conduct misinformation campaigns, commit fraud , obstruct justice, sow dissent and division, and even bring down an organisation or even a government.
Another important issue is the potential of AI to breach security, facilitate identity theft, fraud, promote scams, and other crimes. Once an AI developer has such information it is a small step to create multiple versions of that person. These deep-fakes can be used to get access to health data, bank accounts and other important documents and information.
Designers of AI systems need to be aware of the harms that may be facilitated by this new technology. Ethical behaviour within organisations, effective systems of quality control, security and authenticity, and a culture of ethical behaviour are all vital. Externally, governments and industry bodies must also develop laws, regulations and standards that promote the ethical use of AI.
Lessening of Individual Autonomy and human interaction
Some experts fear that with increasing automation, we humans will become bored and lazy. We are not too far away from the reality that the world will be dominated and run more by artificial intelligence. What will this mean for the human race. Will we become passive, bored, lazy and out of touch? Will this disempowerment create and invite a takeover by artificial intelligence systems? Or, will a few elites, using these new and powerful systems, be in total charge with the result that individual freedom will be severely limited
An example of how AI can empower those whose agenda are to gain control over people and limit freedom is found in Carol Roth’s NY Times Best Seller, You Will Own Nothing: Your War with a New Financial World Order and How to Fight Back. The author and entrepreneur paints a picture of what would happen if a new financial world order controlled by global elites are able to gain the type of control made possible, for example, by eliminating all hard currency and enforcing a system of digital currency under the control of a group of government, international organisations, business and technology elites. She argues that a system of ‘social credits’ would accompany such a system enabling the elites to shut down dissent and control the general population. It will result in debt, deprivation and desperation. It will mean people own fewer assets and that we have less control over their lives thereby lessening the ability to protect one’s wealth now or for future generations.
These questions raise important philosophical, psychological, moral, governance, legal and ethical questions that must be addressed if society is to fully benefit from AI while at the same time managing the significant risks involved.
As mentioned above, the workforce in an AI dominated world may be a dystopia for those who lose their jobs. A lot of industry disruption and job destruction will have to be carefully managed. Governments will have to carefully plan the transition for those industries that are severely disrupted.
Major service functions such as customer service centres are likely to be heavily hit as AI applications coupled with robotics rapidly replace many of these types of roles. For example, most readers have have experienced a chat with a company’s automated answering service. AI ChatBots will become increasingly popular and will replace many of the humans now filling those roles. Customer service A 2022 study from the tech research company Gartner predicted that chatbots will be the main customer service channel for roughly 25% of companies by 2027.
Another example is the fast-food industry. In common with thousands of other young people, my daughters gained their first work experience at a McDonald’s restaurant. Today, customers order via an on-screen kiosk In China AI robotic chefs can cook your food. Other robots can wait on tables and take your order.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are likely to be significant shortages of those people who have the skills to take up the new positions required to support the growth in the AI related fields. There will be a significant battle for talent. And, as in all battles, there will be wounded and casualties and wounded, winners and losers, the dominant and the dominated.
AI presents many challenges for education. Students, faculty and administration will see their systems severely challenged by new AI applications. For academics, it will significantly change aspects of research and scholarship. Many of these developments will bring improvements. The ‘bad’, however, is that it riding this major wave of innovation will require vision, talent, resources, training, resilience and more. Many will fail. The system will be disrupted. The impact of how this all plays out remains unknown, uncertain, and unpredictable. A case in point is the decades long development of computer assisted learning packages. They have been very slow to catch on due to many factors: teacher unions fear job losses; the current model is built on the assumptions based on age level rather than development/skill level; educators do not have adequate technology skills; the financial models have not been right and authors are not sufficiently rewarded; people are generally highly resistant to change.
The other challenge for education is to define how it can best serve society by providing the learning, research and training required to meet the multiple needs and demands if society is to gain the benefits of AI and manage the potential disadvantages and harms that may be caused.
At the macro level, laws and regulations will be required to provide the governance framework to guide society in the Age of the Machine. This will be especially challenging given the geographic limits on the application of law and fact that different countries will have different approaches. Underlying the formal legal regime will also be the reality that countries will have different ethical standards. Some countries will see it in their interest to press ahead, despite the risks, in order to gain a competitive advantage over other countries.
At the ground level it will also be important for designers and users of AI systems to be aware of new problems that might emerge. AI systems can and do discriminate. AI tools have the potential to embed unlawful biases and discrimination and do so on a system-wide scale and in a non-transparent way. This can impact decisions on who gets a loan, who gets hired, who gets favourable administrative decisions, who gets monitored by the police, etc. AI systems also use information, pictures and other intellectual property, all of which is loaded up into the application. This raises serious issues regarding the potential intellectual property violations that might occur. AI also creates IP thus raising further questions about whether the existing intellectual property legal regime will include IP creation by non-humans.
Ethical and Personal Issues
As mentioned above, the growing development and application of AI to all sectors of human activity raises many ethical issues. It threatens the degree of human autonomy, challenges existing rules, laws and standards in society, threatens a loss of control, challenges expectations of privacy, and so on. A major question is the extent to which we can achieve agreement among nations or even between public and private sectors and other groupings within nations regarding central ethical issues raised by AI. For example, what should be the degree of transparency underlying the use of AI systems and applications? How can principles of justice and fairness be promoted and protected by AI development? How can we regulate and promote fairness, non-maleficence, responsibility and privacy in the development and use of AI?
There is also a psychological dimension to AI adoption that must be considered. While AI and its applications have grown rapidly, one should not underestimate the limitations and challenges stemming from the natural tendency of humans to cope with, resist and even fear change. For example, a major roadblock to the implementation of AI applications to augmented medicine is the reality that doctors and other health care providers have resisted such changes and not been prepared for it. Many patients, however, have welcomed its advantages in providing for a greater autonomy and a more personalized treatment.
More than this, as the impact of AI grows it begins to challenge the relationship between humans and machines. In doing so, it challenges traditional notions of identity, sexuality, gender, relationships and rules as new forms of discourse emerge to explain and govern relationships between machine and human intelligence.
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