With the month of June designated as “Effective Communications Month, ” it is probably a fitting time to explore ways to communicate more respectfully, civilly and productively—both professionally and personally—on topics of disparity and disagreement.
One highly polarizing topic currently dominating global discourse is that around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Specifically, the role these rapidly emerging ‘nextgen’ technologies will play in our daily lives.
In order to have these conversations in a more civil and productive manner amidst the high-stakes nature of AI’s impact on society, Milan Kordestani, author of the new book: “I’m Just Saying: A Guide to Maintaining Civil Discourse in an Increasingly Divided World” (and son of Omid Kordestani, the former executive Chairman of Twitter).
Kordestani offers tips on how we can communicate more effectively on the topic: “The conversation surrounding AI is fuelled by two extreme and polarized viewpoints.”
He adds: “On one side, there are those who harbour deep-rooted fears, reminiscent of dystopian sci-fi movies, wherein AI spells the demise of humanity. These individuals see AI as Skynet (of Terminator movie fame) come to life. This as an uncontrollable force that will override human control and wreak havoc on society. On the other side of the spectrum, there are proponents of unregulated AI development, who argue for unbridled advancement without consideration for potential job loss, ethical concerns, and socio-economic implications. This clash of ideologies creates an environment rife with hostility and ideological impasses.”
Kordestani believes that having civil conversations about AI is crucial because the stakes are high and the impact of this technology on society at large is profound. The above strategies offer an easy-to-undertake though much-needed roadmap for engaging in productive and respectful dialogue. By acknowledging fears, bridging gaps, educating, fostering collaboration, considering ethical implications, and encouraging long-term thinking, individuals can navigate the minefield of AI discussions with nuance and open-mindedness.
Kordestani suggests how people can communicate more effectively and productively on the topic.
Consider Ethical Implications: Engage in discussions around the ethical dimensions of AI, such as data privacy, bias, and accountability. Encourage thoughtful examination of potential risks and safeguards to ensure responsible AI development.
Reflect on Your Own Position: Think about your own position within discussions about AI and reflect on your biases. Honestly evaluate your views, and determine if biases or intent is skewing your perspectives. Listen to your own tone and language to ensure you are being respectful.
Listen Actively: Acknowledge people’s fears and concerns genuinely. Actively listen to their questions, doubts, and criticisms. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions.
Empathize: Understand that fears and concerns about AI often stem from misinformation or a lack of understanding. Put yourself in their shoes and show empathy for their worries. Avoid dismissing or trivializing their concerns.
Provide Accurate Information: Offer clear, concise, and accurate explanations about AI. Avoid technical jargon and use simple language to ensure everyone can understand. Provide examples and real-life applications to illustrate how AI can be beneficial.
Discuss Current Regulations: Talk about existing regulations and policies in place to ensure the ethical and responsible use of AI. Explain how governments, organizations, and researchers are working together to address concerns and develop frameworks for AI governance.
Educate and Inform: Counter misinformation and misunderstandings about AI by providing accurate information and insights. Share real-world examples of how AI is already improving lives and address concerns regarding job displacement, ethics, and transparency.
Address Potential Risks: Acknowledge the potential risks and challenges associated with AI, such as job displacement, ethical concerns, and privacy issues. Discuss ongoing research and initiatives aimed at mitigating these risks. Highlight the importance of responsible AI development.
Showcase Benefits and Opportunities: While addressing fears and concerns, also emphasize the positive aspects of AI. Talk about the potential benefits, such as improved healthcare, enhanced productivity, and personalized experiences. Highlight how AI can augment human capabilities rather than replace them.
Acknowledge Fears and Concerns: Start by validating the fears and concerns of those who envision a dystopian AI future. By acknowledging their perspective, a foundation for constructive dialogue can be established.
Encourage Long-Term Thinking: Shift the conversation from immediate fears to long-term perspectives. Explore the potential for AI to amplify human abilities, solve complex problems, and enhance various aspects of daily life.
Bridge the Gap: Emphasize the need for open-mindedness and the exploration of shared values. Look for common ground, such as the desire to ensure ethical AI development or the pursuit of technologies that benefit society as a whole.
Involve Diverse Perspectives: Ensure that discussions about AI involve diverse voices and perspectives. Include experts from various fields, policymakers, ethicists, and individuals directly impacted by AI to provide a well-rounded understanding of the topic.
Be Transparent: Maintain transparency about AI development, deployment, and decision-making processes. Discuss data handling practices, algorithmic biases, and any potential risks openly. Transparency fosters trust and helps address concerns about AI’s impact on society.
Foster Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between technology experts, policymakers, ethicists, and other stakeholders to collectively shape AI’s trajectory. Highlight the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue and the need to find balanced solutions. Kordestani believes that approaching AI discussions with empathy, knowledge and a genuine desire to understand different perspectives, humanity can collectively shape the trajectory of AI in a responsible and inclusive manner.