In December 2020, the AI Forum Hungary held its annual conference.  Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the event was held online, although it is fair to say that it did not inhibit lively discussion and the sharing of new perspectives on a range of AI themes.

As always, a key speaker provided a comprehensive overview of annual developments in AI and this year was no exception.  This year, a Danish AI specialist offered the participants an excellent precise in what might be considered the highlights of 2020 in the field and provided perspectives on how these would develop in the future.

Moving on, the first of the key themes discussed was the application of AI in support of managing the global pandemic, ranging from the development of vaccines to the use of algorithms to support pandemic modeling.  Two medical specialists from the United States gave us a fascinating insight into the understanding of the complexities of finding appropriate medical and public health solutions to global health challenges and how AI in various guises had contributed to better public health situational awareness and specific diagnostic and clinical applications.  

As perhaps one can appreciate, interest in this segment of the conference was acute.  It was insightful, for example, to learn from one of the clinicians how the nexus between public health and public governance tension ad to be managed – in this case, pandemic management in New York.

In concluding this section of the conference, it was obvious that so-called ‘medical AI’ will continue to inform and buttress the struggle against Covid-19 and underpin future efforts to identify new ways and means to improve local, national, regional and global public health.

The conference moved on to another fascinating and arguably contentious subject – the increased use of AI in law enforcement.  This was in response to popular demand following a similar discussion last year, where a number of fascinating insights emerged about police and judicial use of so-called ‘big data’ to support law enforcement situational awareness and decision-making.  Another two US experts with a law enforcement and judicial background fairly brought the subject to life and acted as a catalyst for EU-US-Hungarian comparisons in the law enforcement field.  

As the rights and wrongs of this development were discussed in depth, it also stimulated discussion about individual ‘privacy rights’ and indeed how this might even be threatened by the development and introduction of applications to support public health ‘ track and trace’ pandemic surveillance.  In brief, there was no consensus on how such information might be used out-with the narrow public health pandemic surveillance objectives that such applications were meant to support.

Moving from universal AI application issues, the conference moved to a spirited discussion on the local considerations, to include a review of AI-associated legislation and Hungary’s new national AI Strategy and the likely public response to both.  This section of the conference proved to be informative for a number of reasons.  Two leading Hungarian legal specialists in the field of AI – often complementing each other or at times offering competing assessments – filleted the most recent legislation or legislation in development at the EU level and Hungary’s own heavily publicized policy to the benefit of us all.  It wasn’t difficult to see how public policy will be significantly impacted in the future.

Concluding the proceedings was a rare glimpse into a particular fascinating subject, which is often the subject of both misinformed speculation and significant academic research, namely the potential for a man versus machine adversarial relationship.  The speaker from the UK and one of the Forum directors, argued that this facet of AI was worthy of close scrutiny, especially in the national security field were advanced robotics and autonomous military action were changing the shape of future conflict.  Additionally, the speaker encouraged participants to look at how this and a number of related AI developments, particularly clustered under the headings of human enhancement or ‘singularity pathways’ were in fact impacting on what it meant o be human and should stimulate deep ethical debate.

The 2020 Artificial Intelligence Forum Hungary workshop concluded with a decision to elaborate a number of research themes, which would underpin our activity and inquisitiveness going forward into 2021.