Theme of the plenary session: Intelligent Economy: Three Dilemmas for Digital Nation.
Plenary session of the forum
Excerpts from the transcript:
Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Sergei Roumas at the plenary session of the Moscow International Forum Open Innovations
I would like to cordially welcome you at our Open Innovations forum. I would like to note straight away that Skolkovo will mark its 10th anniversary next year. And I would like to invite everyone present to take part in the events that will be held here and to see what has been accomplished in these ten years and what remains to be done.
Of course, this is also facilitated by our discussions at the forum. Since its inception, the forum has virtually become a futurological history that eliminates the stereotypes hampering the promotion of the digital agenda. We can see that some technological trends, predicted by us at the first forums [suffice it to delve back into history], were overturned by subsequent developments. And, of course, some of them asserted themselves, and forecasts, made here, became a reality.
Today, digital platforms are used almost everywhere; it has become something ordinary and routine, whether in the space sector or buying dinner. They have become a natural part of people’s lives. It has become much easier to do this in everyday life, whether it be purchases, museum tours, or concerts and ticket reservations. On the whole, one can do virtually anything by pushing a smartphone button. The situation was different ten years ago.
We are already working on how to enrol students at Russian universities online. Over 50 higher education institutions have been selected for this project. This does not imply big cities alone. Russia is in a good position in this respect. This is our competitive advantage, to some extent, because 75 percent of this country’s population already have access to all this. In effect, 75 percent of the population can use all the achievements linked with Internet technologies.
The rapid digital transformation is shaping the new economy. We have made tangible progress when it comes to innovative potential. To make use of it we have adopted a programme devoted to the digital economy. This will in the near future be supplemented with yet another federal project, “Artificial intelligence.” It is quite clear why it has been adopted. All told, over a period of the next few years, we have allocated 1.6 trillion roubles intended for the development of the digital programme.
However, not all problems can be solved by means of using money although it is important and we do need it. It is necessary for us to come up with answers to the questions facing us as well as to overcome the serious challenges that exist. These challenges were mentioned during this presentation. Sometimes presentations are threatening and we need to get together and decide how to react to them. That said, the problems were accurately identified.
The first thing is digital security. From the moment of its creation the internet has become a synonym of openness. Rapid cross-border exchange of any amount of information creates enormous opportunities for the development of the individual, cultural ties and businesses. In fact, there are opportunities there for whole states.
But any phenomenon has a reverse side. Openness is fraught with tangible risks. Therefore, the notion of digital security has many aspects. We often bring this up.
First and foremost, it is necessary to ensure the national interests of this country. Speaking about the economy, not a single hacker should have an opportunity to bring down the national banking system. As for politics, if we adopt e-voting – and there are pilot projects, estimations vary but this is the future, yet it is obvious that that this system must be protected from any outside influence. Incidentally, there is one more question. Traditionally, voting was supposed to be secret in modern democracies. Although the internet takes care of the required protection and privacy, the question still arises as to how this secrecy can be ensured. As for protection from terrorist threats, criminals simply cannot penetrate the electronic systems of the country’s essential services.
So in principle, the human race learned to react to these threats at the technological level that we have now reached. But other questions have arisen today, for instance, the protection of personal data, which has long become a strategic resource. We plan on launching a pilot programme for electronic passports on 1 March, next year.
This system will contain almost all the substantial information on a person. Today, state information systems have already accumulated over 80 petabytes of data.
More and more people across the world want to get their hands on big data of this kind. If the statistics are any guide, there is a cyberattack every 14 seconds. I will leave it to you to calculate the number of cyberattacks that occurred across the world since I took the floor.
By the way, we have recently witnessed large-scale data leaks from major foreign companies such as Facebook and Uber, as well as from Russia’s Sberbank and a number of other enterprises.
Just as any other country, Russia is seeking to enhance its national cybersecurity system, including in the digital economy. This is a project we are working on.
Unfortunately, there is a flip side to the efforts to ensure total security in the digital realm. In fact, the risk of compromising privacy, i.e., exposing one’s private life, is the price one has to pay for this kind of security. Today, the line separating private and public spaces has become so thin that sometimes it cannot be measured or even felt. Devices surrounding us account for every step humans make, and every economic or social transaction they carry out. Even everything taking place here will leave a permanent trace in human memory. This creates risks of curtailing freedoms and manipulating people. We need to find the fragile balance between security and guaranteeing privacy.
Of course, security, including digital security, is always about control and responsibility. When it comes to personal data storage and privacy protection, it is up to the state to ensure that they are safe and protected. At the same time, this is also a matter of people making choices on what kind of a trace they are willing to leave behind. This depends on what we aspire to, and what we believe our place to be in the world. I am not even talking about politicians or public figures who are constantly in the spotlight. There was a time when only celebrities and popular figures were exposed this way. Today, this has become relevant for everyone without exception. You have to decide on your own what kind of information you are willing to share, be it photo images, geotags or contacts. It has become commonplace for people to disregard all these aspects entirely. At the same time, the internet has made the world transparent such that practically any person can be promoted to a celebrity status through social media. This is the way it is. And it has to be emphasised that all this information will be out there forever.
The second challenge is how robotics reshapes the labour market. As we all know, all new developments tend to cause anxiety. What did the fear of having to compete against machines lead to in the 17th and 18th centuries? Workers sought to destroy machines so as not to face any competition. Still, four centuries after the industrial revolution, machines are still unable to replace humans, and odds are that they will never succeed in replacing humans. However, just a few years ago we felt the same fears and talked at our forum about what to expect. No one could guarantee anything in terms of employment. Today, researchers tell us, as we just saw on our screens, that 133 million new jobs will appear in place of 75 million traditional jobs that will disappear. This does give ground for some optimism.
This kind of certainty is underpinned by processes on the labour market that are unfolding today. True, there are already many robots. In fact, some 2.5 million robots operate across the world, mostly in a few countries that made this choice and were ready for this transition in terms of technology and funding. These include Korea, Germany and Singapore. These countries have high employment rates. Nevertheless, we need to be ready to enable people to acquire new skills. We need to train professionals capable of working with automated technology and robotics. At the end of the day, robots will take over menial work, while people must master the so-called soft skills, such as creative thinking and prompt problem-solving. This is probably the biggest challenge.
Finally, the third dilemma from the initial presentation is of course regulation, which should not stand in the way of innovative development. Laws are never able to keep up with technological change, which is a good thing, since otherwise technological change would have been impossible. Laws are intrinsically conservative, and without experiments no discoveries can be made or new technology developed. However, it is not uncommon that tests fail to conform with the existing norms, which can lead to unpleasant consequences. Let me refer to a Russian example so as not to offend anyone. We had an agreement to work on autonomous cars. I even chaired several meetings myself, issued instructions and directives, and our companies worked on this matter. Nevertheless, only 55 cars of this kind are being tested, which is attributable to the complexity of the certification system. By the way, some of these vehicles can be spotted driving around Skolkovo. In fact, regulatory barriers prevented us from deploying as many driverless cars as we needed. For example, 1,500 cars of this kind were certified to use the roads in the United States, 400 in China and just 55 in Russia. We need to pick up the pace.
We need to move faster when it comes to bringing new technology to the market. For that, the regulatory model should be reversed so that we enable change rather than prevent it. This is the mindset of the draft law on the so-called regulatory sandboxes. They are expected to create a legal framework empowering innovators to operate within the confines of the law.
This is what I wanted to say about the three challenges we face today. In my opinion, there is nothing dramatic about it, since 10 years ago we were also talking about challenges in this room. We, I mean humankind in general, have been quite effective so far in overcoming these challenges. Let us wait and see what comes next. Now we will give the floor to those who have something to say on this matter.
Ivan Oseledets (Full Professor, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, session moderator): Thank you, Mr Medvedev. Indeed, the world is changing, offering us many new opportunities. Data is a big problem. Today Facebook knows more about us than our families and loved ones.
Robotisation will likely become a bigger problem for many professions than artificial intelligence. I would like to say a few words about the self-driving car in Skolkovo. The prosecutor’s office received a letter which said that cars cannot be used without a driver, and a ban was issued. That is, self-driving cars are being used, but with a safety driver behind the wheel who does not touch it.
Dmitry Medvedev: We can settle this problem, because I have invited everyone, including representatives from the Interior Ministry who are monitoring the situation, and from the prosecutor’s office... We simply need to change the rules.
Ivan Oseledets: Speaking as a local resident… We have seen this. People say they fear for their children who walk in the street.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see.
Ivan Oseledets: I have a question for Sergei Roumas. Belarus has made great strides in the IT sphere over the past few years. A case in point is the World of Tanks game, which a huge number of both grown men and boys have played and are still playing.
Or take the Maps.me cartography service, which is one of the best in the world. These are Belarusian companies. The Belarusian IT sector increased by 40 percent last year and its contribution to the country’s GDP exceeded $1.5 billion, as far as I know. The country’s high technology park has given rise to major international start-up companies, which means that they are developing rapidly. At the same time, relations between the state and businesses are changing. How can this process be regulated? How does Belarus respond to these challenges? What measures does it take? This is what I would like to know.
I am honoured to be here and to have the opportunity to speak at this plenary session. I would like to focus on the main thesis: intelligent economy is the main driver of innovation-based growth.
Steve Jobs said that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, and we, of course, are thinking about how to grow our economies, to become leaders and not to fall behind alongside the followers. Belarus is no exception.
Belarus is a country with an open economy. Our exports account for over 70 percent of the GDP. We export a third of our output – high-tech products – worth $14 billion; so, with regard to the first dilemma that our hosts came up with today – closed and secure or open with good prospects for growth – the choice for us is clear: open.
I paid attention to what Mr Medvedev had to say. His remarks are interesting both in terms of what he said and as a message for us: we see that Russia will be focusing on innovation and digital economy. For us, as a small country, this is a very good sign, because key digital market players, such as Russia, China, the United States and the EU, will be determining how digital technology will change the world in the future.
The experience of Belarus, which is not a major European country, is, of course, limited. However, we managed to achieve success in certain areas, and our colleagues may find some of our observations useful.
The high-tech park, which is our country’s leading IT institute, got its second wind literally two years ago. In late 2017, our president, Alexander Lukashenko, signed a special executive order on digital economy. We decided to create a favourable environment for creativity and innovation and to eliminate red tape in our park. The park residents are allowed to conduct business and to conclude deals in Belarus just as they used to do in the best international jurisdictions. We gave the park residents tax incentives and protected them against interference by control and oversight authorities. It didn’t take long to see the results. Indeed, our park is growing by 30 to 40 percent. This year, we expect the park to export $2 billion worth of its services, which is a fairly big amount for a small country such as Belarus.
In terms of per capita software exports, we hold a leading position in Eastern Europe and the CIS. Most importantly, the budget revenue has also gone up. Even though the park offers a preferential tax rate, the park employees pay three times more taxes than other employees are paying on average.
Our park experience suggests that the brain drain, which looked like a disaster only yesterday, stopped being a fatal problem today. Many of those who previously left Belarus for other countries are now returning. Almost all graduates with a major in IT stay in Belarus. Just last week, taking into account the need for IT specialists, the president decided to open a high-tech university at the park. Even though we honestly admit that we cannot boast such success in other areas – for example, we know we are lagging in our efforts to digitalise our entire country. So, the experience of countries such as Russia and others is very useful to us. That is why we strongly support not only the exchange of experience within the EAEU, but the synchronisation of these processes as well.
Today, taking advantage of the fact that Mr Sargsyan is here, I would like to suggest creating a special EAEU venture fund. Lots of excellent start-ups are born in our countries, which receive funding from the United States or the EU and then change their residence. Why not invest in each other's promising projects? Colleagues, think about it. Other states that are not members of the EAEU but have close and friendly relations with us could also join such a fund.
In closing, I would like to discuss one more challenge. It’s about artificial intelligence, which one book wittily called the last invention of humankind. President Putin recently noted that a country capable of establishing a monopoly in the area of artificial intelligence will rule the world. After all, we are talking about a phenomenon which, theoretically, is capable of rising above humans. It is not the artificial intelligence technology that scares us – progress can’t be stopped and standing in its way is pointless and stupid. We are more concerned about the fact that society is not ready for this morally and politically. What will happen if artificial intelligence is seen as a weapon? Is there any guarantee that this is not already happening?
Unfortunately, the great breakthroughs that digitalisation promises us can be either a boon or a bane for humanity. I’m sure that the digital world of the 21st century will be a golden age for humanity only under one condition: if the level of morality, consciousness and responsibility of the elites and society reaches the level of technology. Every person endowed with vast or small powers bears this responsibility. So, may God let us be worthy of it.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you very much, Mr Roumas, for your very interesting and sensible suggestions.
We also cooperate with Belarusian companies, but we ran into a problem of how to wire money to them. We actually had to go to Sberbank and make a transfer. In addition, we had to go precisely to the branch where we opened the account. It would be great if such funds will help improve this situation.
I would like to ask Mr Aripov a question. Uzbekistan is a country with a thousand-year history and excellent cuisine. But for some reason, it just so happens that most of my friends see Uzbekistan as a country where one can go for a so-called digital detox. They mean a place where there are no social media, where one can go to the desert and actually chat with people. This is very important indeed. But the republic is now embarking on the path of sustainable digital development and is identifying the key aspects and challenges associated with it. So what are the key challenges Uzbekistan faces?
Abdulla Aripov: Mr Medvedev, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to this forum at the Skolkovo Innovation Centre and the opportunity to discuss the development of digital technologies and their impact on our daily lives.
As for your question, the people who say so have probably never been to Uzbekistan. So they should go to Uzbekistan and see for themselves that the country is growing along with the rest of the world, keeping in step with the times. This naturally includes digital development. We are somewhat jealous of our colleagues’ achievements, and we are making every effort to narrow the digital gap between us. I would like to describe some of the key challenges on the digital agenda – not only in Uzbekistan, but also in other emerging economies – and outline ways to address them.
The first is the development of digital infrastructure. I am sure that its wide availability is one of the main conditions for the sustainable development of the digital economy. Yet, we can see a lot of inequality between different countries in terms of the availability of digital infrastructure. According to the International Telecommunication Union, more than 40 percent of the world’s population do not have access to the internet; less than 50 percent can afford to pay for broadband access. We also face this problem, especially with providing digital access in rural areas, which are home to half of the country’s population. A lot of countries, including CIS countries, are also working to ensure equal conditions for rural residents. To overcome this digital challenge, the republic is implementing a special presidential programme for the development of digital infrastructure. In particular, by the end of next year, all social facilities in Uzbekistan, including schools, preschools and medical centres, overall more than 20,000 facilities, will have broadband internet access through fiber-optic lines. With the development of the mobile network, we plan to increase the number of mobile phone users to 23 million people.
This year, Uzbekistan has successfully completed testing the 5G mobile network, and we are poised to organise its commercial launch in the capital city, Tashkent, next year.
The second challenge concerns the development of digital skills and expertise among the population. Many experts agree that in the near future, digital technologies will significantly affect the labour market. But in this regard, the digital problem is not so much the potential loss of jobs, but a rearrangement, which Mr Medvedev has just mentioned, with the share of mid-level occupations decreasing. This will be accompanied with a parallel rise in the number of lower-segment jobs.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that automation will account for more than 50 percent of work activities by 2036. This will make a significant part of staff redundant and increase wage inequality. Uzbekistan has definite prerequisites for the accelerated development of digital skills. In particular, young people account for more than 60 percent of the country’s population, with the average age about 29; this provides a solid basis for the formation of a digital intellectual society. In this connection, over the past three years, the country has been focused on improving the education system in the field of information technology. By the way, I am also an IT specialist by profession.
As many as 17 universities in Uzbekistan are training such specialists; seven of them are branches of leading foreign schools.
To widely engage the population in technology, free digital skills training is provided under several government programmes in Uzbekistan. In particular, by the end of next year, centres teaching the basics of programming, graphic design and data processing will open in each province.
Following the official visit of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, to the United Arab Emirates, and with the support of the UAE Government, we are launching in November a joint project to train 1 million software engineers providing all participants with the opportunity to learn digital skills based on the training programmes of leading US companies and using a single distance learning website. I’m convinced that creating more such opportunities for young people in our country will contribute to the sustainable development of digital transformation in our society.
Third is the creation of an effective system for state management of the digital economy. An e-government programme is being implemented in Uzbekistan, which provides for streamlining public services, increasing the openness of the state institutions’ activities and involving society in governance decisions. Notably, we are working very closely with our Russian colleagues in this matter. First, we are implementing a project with the Federal Taxation Service on legalising the VAT. Second, we are working very closely on labelling and cash register automation. In particular, over 700 public services have been completely revised and optimised over the past three years alone. Over 10 million services have been provided and over 15 million electronic transactions involving payment of various state duties and fees have been processed through a single electronic portal since the beginning of the year.
A website for individual electronic applications from citizens on all matters of public life is successfully functioning in the country. Over 3.5 million individual applications have been processed. At present, we face a daunting task on a national scale to integrate disparate information systems and resources of various state institutions into a secure single information space.
The fourth most important area of the country's domestic policy in this context is related to the digital industry. To create a favourable ecosystem, we created a technology park of software products and information technology drawing on the experience of our Belarusian colleagues. Its residents were granted unprecedented benefits last year by a special executive order of the President of Uzbekistan: they are exempted from all taxes and customs duties for the next 10 years. Already today, more than 330 companies with 3,500 young employees are operating in the technology park and providing a variety of outsourcing services, including for customers from Western countries. The technology park activities also include supporting various initiatives in this area. In particular, acceleration and incubation programmes have been launched, and the first venture fund to finance them has been set up. I’m sure that further development of the digital industry in many countries will require joint efforts of all key participants in this process, starting with the state and private investors and ending with the start-up projects per se.
And finally, fifth: I share our colleagues’ concern that protecting digital data and ensuring information security of the economy in general is an important area of focus.
Like other countries, Uzbekistan is witnessing an increase in the number of cyber attacks, including against state information systems. Nearly 8 million information security incidents have been detected since the beginning of this year alone, some of which were critical. In this regard, the country has adopted a comprehensive programme to ensure the protection and security of digital data, and over 70 regulatory documents have been approved. All government institutions have switched to electronic data exchange via secure data networks and much more.
The above measures allowed us to rise by 40 positions in the global cyber security index of the International Telecommunication Union and take the 52nd place among 175 countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, in closing I would like to note that overcoming the above and other challenges, as well as the priority objectives of the digital agenda, requires, of course, close interaction and cooperation, including by expanding the dialogue on developing common standards and approaches based on best international practices. Events such as this forum are a good expert platform for exchanging opinions and adjusting our digital development programmes. Thank you.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you, Mr Aripov. This is very impressive. I was particularly struck by the figure of one million software engineers. It even gave me a little scare. I pictured them in my mind...
Mr Sargsyan, on the one hand, we have Europe with its tight regulations and the GDPR, and we can’t do anything with data. On the other hand, we have China, where no one cares about anything, be it face recognition, ratings or anything else. Where is the Eurasian economic area headed? Europe, China, or are we following our own, special way? Do you think we should stick to an international standard or develop our own?
The first is the standards that we are using due to the fact that the technology already exists and is applied. These technologies were used to develop international standards. If you are using these technologies, it is best to join international standards.
Second, it’s when you yourself are the developer of an innovative technology. You introduce this technology, it becomes popular, you introduce standards, and many join your standards.
The third area, which the prime ministers spoke about, is security. Each country or economic union is trying to ensure its security and develops a vast number of regulatory documents and standards, which then become mandatory for the departments and companies within a particular territory. This means that they are developing their own standards.
And the fourth area is a new global trend involving regional standards. Today, there are about 50 regional economic associations around the world. Clearly, as integration in these associations becomes deeper, the need for closer contact and interoperability arises. Then, they develop their own standards.
There are all four areas around the world where these standards work.
Returning to the Eurasian Economic Union, four years ago, the heads of state approved the Eurasian digital agenda. The need arises to form our own ecosystem as part of developing our digital projects. This will imminently lead us to developing our own standards.
I want to give an example of the projects we are implementing today.
The first fundamental project launched by the heads of state is a system for tracking goods both within the union and goods that come to our union from third countries.
Clearly, developing such a common system for tracking goods requires coordinated positions of our five countries, and this means that our own standards have to be implemented.
The second project is about electronic supporting documents within the territory of our union. This is, in fact, a one-of-a-kind standard, when all countries recognise relevant documents precisely because they are digitised, and we also recognise our electronic signatures.
The third project, which was approved by our countries’ prime ministers, is the contracting, subcontracting and technology transfer ecosystem. This creates an opportunity for the EU companies to use modern work methods, precisely thanks to the digital platform.
The next project is about digital transport corridors. The EAEU has an enormous transit potential, but we are unable to realise this transit potential in full because there are numerous obstacles and limitations associated with the fact that country regulations are not alike. It is necessary to align them. This project will dramatically reduce the time we spend on transporting goods and significantly cut transportation costs. This is a fundamentally important project for us.
We have also developed an electronic labour exchange project for the Eurasian Union. This also means that we must implement common standards in different areas of activity in order to ensure interoperability and create a comfortable environment for job seekers across the EAEU space. Since we now have common labour market, we must introduce common standards for our citizens.
And the sixth project mentioned by the heads of government is the use of regulatory sand boxes and agile modern digital projects cannot be carried out rapidly and effectively without the removal of the current administrative barriers. Therefore, for digital projects these regulatory sand boxes are a vital instrument that will allow us to make a breakthrough in the implementation of the digital agenda. So, proceeding from all this information that I have already spoken about, our position is as follows: we are interested in the compatibility of digital standards of the European Union, the People's Republic of China (PRC) and those that we are developing within the Eurasian Union. We have already launched such technical dialogue with our colleagues in the EU as well as with China with whom last year in May we signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation. For the first time in this agreement our digital agenda was included and the need for this dialogue in order to make standards compatible.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you, Mr Sargsyan. So, for the time being it is unclear whether we are heading to Europe or China.
Dmitry Medvedev: As Lenin said: “We will follow our own road.”
Ivan Oseledets: This is also an option. I was in America recently and there are cameras in the city but they are not allowed to be used for issuing fines. The residents of the city have prohibited this. If we voted in Moscow, everyone would also vote against them, am I correct?
We see that states are giving more and more attention to the development of technology in widely different spheres. At the same time, technological evolution is turning into a revolution, in a sense, would I be correct in thinking? And society and the state may be unable to keep pace with these changes.
Professor Bostrom, you are known as a techno-pessimist. You wrote in one of your recent books that AI will be developing explosively, by leaps and bounds, with algorithms developing new algorithms.
My question is: Will humans have any place left in this inhuman world of machines? Will people become the digitalised copies of themselves? In general, what can we expect from the technological future in the short term?
I think we regard the AI as a lot of fixating things happening there. In terms of the impact on the labour market, I think there may be a tendency to overhype the very near term, in fact, that we are going to see. It’s one thing to automate the task, but many jobs consist of many different tasks, and you might need to automate them all to have a bigger impact. So I think there is some overhyping of the near term. At the same time, I believe that often there is an underhyping of the longer term. I think that eventually, although there is great uncertainty about the time scales, we will learn to automate all the things that right now the humans can do. And then we’ll reach the goal of full unemployment, which, if you think about it, has been the ambition of the field of AI since its very inception. Not just to automate specific tasks, but to replicate the full general listening, planning and learning ability of the human mind. This, obviously, is more of a futuristic prospect, but my job is to think about these longer-term things.
I think that in theory this potential for universal automation could be a very good thing. I think it requires us to solve two challenges, though.
You ask: Why do people need jobs? I think that basically there are two reasons. One is they need a source of income, money. And then for many people also a job is a source of meaning, of self-worth. You are a breadwinner; you contribute something to society; you do something meaningful.
To the extent that one day we will be moving towards this world where machines could do everything better than we could do, we must make sure that people still have a source of livelihood. Unfortunately, in precisely those scenarios where this actually would happen, those would be scenarios with extremely rapid economic growth, enormous productivity advances from this automation. So there would an abundance of economic resources. In theory, this could be used to provide people with a livelihood.
And then this leaves the second challenge, the challenge of meaning and purpose, which I think would require a cultural change, a fairly profound one. Right now, our culture is very much geared towards work. Our education system is geared towards creating people who will be productive. You teach people to sit behind their desks and do the assignment and do what they are told. It’s kind of preparation for work life. Now, if you met in a world where people didn’t have to work, it could change the education system to emphasise completely different things: being able to use leisure in an interesting way, developing hobbies, cultivating the art of conversation and appreciation for literature, art and all these other things. So that you would have people who would actually be able to use this leisure time for something that would actually give their lives meaning and fulfilment.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you, Professor Bostrom. It is a very interesting view. I would love to enter into polemics with you, but I remember from my university days that arguing with philosophers is useless and even harmful. However, I have an additional question for you. It concerns longer-term planning and ethics. It is unclear today which part of AI and its uses is ethical for people and which is not. Take the example of China and its credit rating. I would like to hear your opinion on this matter.
Nick Bostrom: AI obviously has a lot of different applications. One interesting application is to boost our ability to monitor populations, do surveillance, and then automate the analysis of all that data, and implement that for various purposes. So there is a long debate between privacy advocates and people who see threats to security, and the need to balance that and where the balance should be struck, with many arguments on each side. I’m kind of agnostic as to scale, but I think there is one argument that hasn’t been taken into account in that debate. I wrote about this recently in a paper. I call it the vulnerable world hypothesis. The vulnerable world hypothesis is that at some level of technological development at which civilisation gets destroyed by default there is some technological invention that makes it too easy to destroy things. So you could think as a historical counter-fact: we know that nuclear weapons are very dangerous, but they require plutonium or highly enriched uranium, which are really difficult to get and only individual states can build them. But suppose that instead the same amount of energy could have been unleashed using some easy method , like baking sand or using a microwave, something like that, then that might well be the end of civilisation. Because if you think about it that everybody had the ability to kill a million people, or to destroy a city, I don’t think we would have cities, because in any population of several million there would always be somebody who would like to do that, for some ideological reason, or because they are crazy, or as an extortion plot, or for some other reason. Now, of course, we know that it is physically impossible to build a nuclear weapon in your microwave, but before we did the relevant physics, meaning it was impossible to know how it would turn out, so we were lucky in that respect. But we keep reaching into that urn of invention and we pull out one ball after another. So far we’ve extracted a lot of white balls and grey balls, but we haven’t yet pulled out the black ball. If the vulnerable world hypothesis is true, it’s the hypothesis that there is at least one black ball in that urn, and that if we keep inventing we will eventually get it. And while we have a good ability now to invent staff, we don’t have the ability, I think, to put the ball back in. We can’t uninvent our inventions. There is a certain class of scenarios where we make some unfortunate discovery that just reveals a very easy way to cause a massive amount of destruction. If such a scenario were to take place, it might then be that extremely intrusive, ubiquitous, real-time surveillance would be the only way that you could stabilise the civilisation. I think that’s the argument that should be added to the scales. After they add that, how they balance out – I don’t know. Different people will have different opinions on that.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you, this is enough… I would say there is some food for thought.
It would be interesting to ask Sergei Roumas his opinion: look, we have heard here about some scenarios involving drawing the black ball, some inventions. Aren’t you afraid that one day we will draw that black ball and doomsday will come in a certain sense? Can it be prohibited, say, by law?
Sergei Roumas: Perhaps it is hard to prohibit it by law. Maybe my example is not accurate enough but this artificial intelligence issue reminds me of how the situation developed with nuclear weapons. In their rush for results countries did not place any restrictions on their research in the field of nuclear weapons although they understood perfectly well their destructive force. However at some stage, when several countries had obtained nuclear weapons, the public arrived at an understanding that the issue should be regulated. And today this issue has more or less been regulated, well enough or not so well.
Perhaps something like this is happening with the drones. And probably one day we will see that the drones, which formerly were regarded as fine toys, will also be subject to regulation.
I am sure that with the artificial intelligence issue, the world will also come to understand the need for supranational regulation. But it takes for the countries to realise this threat. More than likely it won’t happen at this stage. At present, I am sure, all countries will seek progress in this area. Probably those who make progress will be the first to realise the threat and initiate regulation here.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you. It seems to me that the nuclear weapons example is very relevant, that humanity has actually stopped…
I know, for instance, that to be on the safe side, many top managers of major companies buy houses high in the mountains without digitisation but with artificial intelligence to be safe in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.
Dmitry Medvedev: All they have to do is to reach the place…
Ivan Oseledets: I want to ask Mr Aripov, what is your point of view regarding the black ball that we may draw from innovation? Well, here we will train a million programmers, for example, and they will programme something fearsome. Aren’t you afraid of this? Or they will launch cyberattacks.
Abdulla Aripov: First, I fully agree with Sergei Roumas. And I want to give you a different example.
While the Internet and social networks were developing, hardly anyone though that they would become an instrument in the hands of people, who would, say, manipulate public opinion or just destabilise society in a variety of countries. Recent history has shown already a lot of cases involving the use of social networks as an instrument of colour revolutions. And I don’t think that those who invented the social networks thought that these things could ever be used to that end.
Of course, to our regret, regulatory and legislative issues always lag behind science. It has always been so. But the time lag should not be long. Measures should be taken right after the first experiences. Therefore, I think we will not hurt the world by training a million programmers, this will only be of benefit. The sole concern, as you pointed out, is artificial intelligence, which like a genie will be released from the bottle. But first, it should be put in there.
Ivan Oseledets: Yes, this is what humankind is all about – first do, and then watch what happens. Thank you.
Werner (to Werner Baumann), you represent one of the largest global companies, but even a large company like Bayer cannot exist in isolation from the global economic and information space. Our forum is called Open Innovations, and I know that you also have a programme in your company called Open Innovation. I would venture to ask you – I know what “closed innovation” is within a separate global company, that means we innovate, then close all innovations and don’t share them with anyone. But what is “open innovation” and why do you need it? Who are you going to open the innovations to, and why? That would be interesting to know.
Werner Baumann: Thanks, Ivan. First of all you said we cannot be isolated. We have no intention to be isolated. It is actually the contrary – we see our company, and as Nick mentioned earlier, what is very important is its purpose. As an organisation that is there to actually do things that are useful for humanity and actually for the improvement for all of our livelihoods, the two things that are very important to us are human health – because it relates to wellbeing and longevity - and of course also nutrition as part of our agriculture business. We have come to the conclusion, as I think many people around here at this forum, that knowledge develops so fast, at an almost exponential speed, that no company, however big it might be, and no government, however powerful it might be, can go it alone. So we need to partner, and in order to partner, we have to be willing to open up. The nature of partnership is to give something to get something back. And that is also very true when it comes to science and innovation.
So beyond our internal efforts, we have created a number of things that are proprietary to the company because we think it enables better solutions. We may share them. We may do that just for the purposes of giving back or being good citizens. These programmes drive early identification of opportunities, be it new drugs or targets, be it applications that can be useful in agriculture or for early detection of diseases, or other things that are really transformational. We know from the beginning that alone we will fail. We have parts of the answer, but we don’t have everything so we need to find the right partners. Then we’ll find the right way to actually create alignment and incentivisation.
So one of the things that we found out is that money and funding enables, but it does not drive people. People are driven by purpose; and they want to do something that is good, so in some areas, we incentivise people by what we call “a return on humanity.” You are not incentivised by sales or profits, but you are incentivised by how many people you contribute to healing. That’s very important.
So the programmes we have created are partially funded by us, and they are partially giving access to our expertise and networks, and beyond that. I think that’s very applicable also to other regions – to the Eurasian region.
We are a participant in a very, very large European programme, that is the Horizon 2020 programme, and part of its nearly 80 billion euros of funding available over seven years, roughly 5.5 billion goes into healthcare, and it is a partnership programme where both sides have skin in the game. It’s 50-50 co-finance; it is all about collaboration and developing things that none of the partners would be able to do on their own. It has very tangible outcomes – for example there’ve been two genes that have been identified that are maybe cause for the onset of Parkinson’s disease. It’s one of the areas that we have not found the cure for, not even a good treatment for. Or other areas, where it’s more about standardisation, which is also very helpful. So those are the things that, we see as actually a meaningful complement to our internal activities, and something that I think none of us is good enough yet because if, I think, anything is sure from our perspective, it’s that more of, let’s say, sharing and opening up needs to develop in order to be truly successful in the long term.
Ivan Oseledets: Actually, this is an interesting phenomenon – a discovery in order to achieve more. It manifests in many areas. You spoke about the large-scale initiative, Horizon 2020. Unfortunately, almost no Russian companies or universities are involved there. And what is your experience of cooperation with Russian companies and organisations? What is your vision of that?
Werner Baumann: Russia is very technology-rich and has a strong history in the development of science and excellence in science. We participate inside of different ecosystems and, frankly, with some things that we do on global scale, we use some formats – one of them is called Collaborator. We join forces with small and young companies to co-develop. Another one is called Grants4Apps, or Grants4Targets, where we run contests in order to find new interesting ideas for applications that we reward financially and that we provide an ecosystem for, so that these young companies can flourish and develop.
And these are global ones. And then, we have two very specific ones that are actually unique to Russia, quite frankly. One of them is to drive an early identification of young companies that have very, very strong potential for protected intellectual property. And if you look at the exploitation of brainpower, and investment that goes behind it, it’s crucial for those companies to reach a certain level of maturity, that these companies are helped when it comes to developing and actually protecting their intellectual property.
So this is called the Power of Patents programme that is specific and unique to Russia, and we are doing that together with Skolkovo. The second one that is actually also only run here, because there is some common interest, is the further exploitation of nuclear medicine. We have a number of products and some nuclear medicine platforms, which is a great basis to actually drive that, and we are helping that, for some of the Russian interests with the technology platform, but also the expertise we have in other countries – both in Germany but also here in Europe.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you very much. Patents are tricky. Google recently patented neural networks, and perhaps everything we are now discussing will be owned by Google. Of course, this is a joke, but there is such a patent. It was registered quietly.
While we are at it, I would like to ask Mr Sargsyan about EU-Russia relations. We have fairly strained relations with the EU where the EU is imposing sanctions on us, and we are forced to impose sanctions in response. Cooperation in science and technology is an area where we can still keep that window open, because science has always been apolitical, but, alas, this window is closing little by little. Do you think we can fix this within the EAEU?
Tigran Sargsyan: I believe that the EAEU provides a unique chance for all its five member countries to realise their internal potential, including scientific and technological potential, because it is difficult to exercise sovereignty that is an integral part of the state without cooperation. The form of cooperation, which lies at the basis of our union, allows us to more fully realise our potential and sovereignty, including primarily as part of scientific and technical cooperation, because science has no borders. Scientific and technological progress removes all borders, and joint efforts in this area provide fantastic results.
From this point of view, I would like to return to Mr Roumas’s idea about creating a Eurasian Venture Fund which will help the Eurasian countries realise their internal potential among other things. In order to cooperate with the European Union ... I noted that we have already established a technology-related dialogue, which is an important prerequisite for us to be able to move forward taking into account the fact that political issues have not yet been resolved. But, thankfully, we have achieved that ... mostly because we managed to prove that the Eurasia project is not a political project, but a vital necessity. The entire world is demonstrating this necessity, because we can see that regional economic associations are an objective reality worldwide. This is a mandatory stage in the evolution of humankind, which cannot be avoided. Both the European Union itself and its track record prove this.
The same thing is happening in our region. We have created a regional economic association, which is part of the natural growth process. From this point of view, a dialogue with the EU and China is inevitable. We have already established a dialogue with the ASEAN countries and we will sign a memorandum with the African Union in two days. My point is that these borders cannot be artificially maintained for long. I am confident that these political issues will be resolved soon, because from the point of view of human evolution, we must come to terms with the idea that these borders are an absurdity.
Ivan Oseledets: Mr Medvedev but I will still ask you this. Everyone is fed up of sanctions. It is necessary to put an end to them. Maybe it would be possible to go back to the past level of ties via technological cooperation. What do you think?
Dmitry Medvedev: I wish I could say yes but no, this won’t work out.
Ivan Oseledets: This won’t work? A brief answer. Science is after all apolitical…
Dmitry Medvedev: Science is apolitical but...
Ivan Oseledets: But would I be right in thinking we won’t get any funding?
Dmitry Medvedev: Money is not the point here. The bottom line is that any decisions made at government level are largely based not only on some technological prerequisites or scientific solutions but are prompted by the logic of current developments, sad as it may sound. They cannot be ignored. I would be telling you a fib if I said that science will destroy all the sanctions and break the wall of misunderstanding, allowing us to communicate freely and easily. This simply won’t happen. However, obviously science can help to facilitate this.
Ivan Oseledets: We will try to do something. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Go ahead.
Ivan Oseledets: We will try to do something. Thanks.
Now I would like to give the floor to Purnima (Kochikar).
In fact, data is called “new oil” – this is the basis of the welfare of large companies that create platforms like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. And they allow small companies to rise very quickly from some small national level to exporting. On the one hand, this is good, but on the other hand, national economies are suffering, because, in general, this is all becoming part of the global corporations that receive the main income.
Do you think it is possible to find some kind of symbiosis between the development of national economies and such large open global platforms, such as those developed by Google?
Purnima Kochikar: It has been an esteemed panel. Where I sit, I see a world, maybe slightly different than Nick, of being an optimist and I am very excited that all of you are investing in creating more engineers and technologies to do so. So let us talk about what these platforms can do.
I truly believe that one of the biggest values that the open internet has brought to people is the ability to innovate and to get limitless reach. And when you do that, if you look at Russia itself, take local developers on Google platforms, there are tens of thousands of Russian developers who work on Google platforms, and several of them make more than one million dollars a month.
I am very excited when I saw the statistics that Russia comes number one among all European nations - Europe, Middle East, Africa - among developers who make more than a million dollars. So something to be really excited about, right? So, now if you take that one step further and look at Google Play, if you look at the apps economy, people can live anywhere, any small town, and build an audience around the world. Because the Google Play platform can build you an audience anywhere you are.
So, for example, I was in Korea last week and I saw people there playing games from Clerics. And, if you know, Clerics started in a small town here. It is among the top three gaming companies in the world, have 1,300 employees, 15 offices around the world and several of them here – in Moscow, St Petersburg, etc. Take My.Games: …, very storied IT company in Russia, everybody knows them, decided that they will go to the innovative space like My.Games. And the games are being played by people around the world.
And when Google looked at it, there was a slightly different approach. We said why don’t we work with mail.ru in their investment arm and help them invest in smaller companies so that you can actually innovate. I know, you talked about it, Werner, how you are investing in smaller companies and helping them innovate. So, that has been an exciting thing. Then we looked at it and said “What is happening with these companies?” and we realise – games are not the only ones. Looks like the Russian Government is being also acknowledged for amazing apps that have been built. In February 2019, the UAE acknowledged three apps built here for the best government applications. So, which means you can also get really good public service out of it, right? So, apps like… I am going to mess up the name, so you have to give me a second, let me see if I can say, Gosuslugi. Is that right?
Ivan Oseledets: Gosuslugi. You should just register there.
Purnima Kochikar: Excellent. And it was built by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, has been acknowledged as one of the best apps for accessibility to the government. Here goes Sberbank, which has built one of the best banking applications. So, you are looking across the spectrum here. Then you look at it and say – what is the impact on the economy? On the local economy, 1.7 percent of the GDP is being contributed by mobile app companies, that is about 25 billion dollars. Not a shabby number. And then, if you go one step further, they create jobs. So, 430,000 jobs created by mobile app companies.
And if you look at the research done, the estimation is that there will be 1.1 million jobs created by 2021. That is 630,000 more jobs in two years. Lots to be optimistic about.
What is interesting is that these companies who are thinking about export – to your question – are looking at it and building leadership for Russia, making Russian people aspire to build and compete on a national and a global level. And in doing so can do it by living in their hometowns. Contribute to the economy, create jobs and stay where you are.
Ivan Oseledets: I will just express my point of view.
The main thing is to prevent them from becoming an instrument in the hands of politicians, but this is a separate issue. The second question I would like to ask is a little bit misdirected, as you represent Google Play, not the whole of Google. But since there are no other representatives here, I will ask you. Many people in our country are very worried about brain drain, because technology giants are sucking up talented students like vacuum cleaners. I work at Skoltech, and one of the KPIs there is that 80 percent of graduates should work in Russia, but at the same time we train them so well that Google and others always try to lure them away. This is not very good for us. Do you think the brain drain routine created by the global vacuum cleaner is normal? Should something be modified? Or will it naturally align itself?
Purnima Kochikar: You know, where I sit and this is something I think we should all think about it. It is the kinds of things that I heard from the ministries of Uzbekistan, as well as Belarus, it is about creating local opportunities and creating … a system locally to be able to do that. When we look at app platforms, we look at those platforms as the ability for these young people to live where they live, build things with no borders, no constraints and get access to global audiences. I think there is no better way than for people to actually be able to do that.
Ivan Oseledets: Thank you. Obviously, technologies are neither good nor evil. People usually evaluate them by the way they influence our daily lives and the lives of our family. Companies focus on the criterion associated with this - on economic efficiency – but not always. How to understand how new technologies will change reality? It is possible by introducing sandboxes, conducting a targeted implementation...
Modern legal regulation stops the development of many innovative services. This is understandable, there are recent examples of how unmanned vehicles lead to death. Let me give you a local example. Just a few months ago, an unmanned Tesla crashed into a GAZel on the Moscow Ring Road. The problem is that there are no GAZels on American roads, so artificial intelligence simply did not know that it was impossible to go through it. There were no casualties, but this is already a real example of the danger of artificial intelligence technologies, because we do not know, do not understand how it works. But on the other hand, everyone really wants to have unmanned vehicles, drones, introduce artificial intelligence in industry, medicine. We need to find the middle ground between progress and security. Now I would like to ask Mr Prime Minister to summarise our plenary meeting.
Dmitry Medvedev: First, when we began discussing these topics, it looked like we were pitting things against each other: jobs versus robots and so on. It seems to me that, after all, humankind will find its middle road, so nothing critical is likely to happen on the labour market in the years to come. A balance will be found between robots and the routine employment of people. True, there will be more emphasis on high-tech jobs, flexible working hours and remote jobs; however, this is not fraught with anything fatal.
As for the regulation – if this should be tough regulation or self-reliant development – just the same, we are also likely to find a middle road. True, finding it will be more difficult than was the case 100–150 years ago, when signing international conventions came to be practiced. We hardly stand a chance of drafting international conventions on key issues of digital development, including artificial intelligence, anytime soon. Why so? It is not because humankind has become more malicious than it was, say, 150 years ago, when the copyright conventions were approved – first, the Berne Convention and then the Geneva Convention. No, that is not the reason. It is just because things are developing so rapidly that it would put legal experts to a lot of effort to draft these conventions. And then you just try to coordinate the document with 200 countries. This is why, in this sense, I do not have much confidence in international regulation. We will certainly be introducing national regulation or regulation within integration associations, but this must be permissible and framework regulation, so that it does not hinder technological progress.
Speaking of an appropriate balance between individual privacy and security, it seems to me that, ultimately, we also will take a quiet road. But if we look at these matters from a futurological perspective – and our Open Innovations Forum has always suggested this, so it was not for nothing that we always invited specialists in this field and my colleagues, prime ministers, commented on this subject – is the morality of those introducing artificial intelligence, or taking decisions on its introduction of any importance? No doubt, my answer will be “yes.” References to nuclear weapons and any other technology are justified, but we must not forget that we may soon find ourselves in a situation, where the morality of artificial intelligence itself will matter, particularly, if, as futurologists say, we enter the age of artificial superintelligence in 40 to 50 years. Then these questions will move to the foreground. But it will definitely not be us who will have to search for answers to these questions – different people who will clearly have an absolutely different level of knowledge will be doing this.
Summarising everything that I have heard here, I recall, like I do every year when we meet at the Open Innovations Forum, where various forecasts are made and various incredible things are discussed, the well-known words that are ascribed to Leo Tolstoy regarding the works by another great Russian writer, Leonid Andreyev. It is a catch phrase: He wants to frighten me, but I don’t get scared. It seems to me that our speculations about the future should agree with this formula. We should not be frightened as further development cannot be halted.