SINGAPORE: Speaking at the opening gala of the fourth edition of the ATxSummit yesterday evening (29 May), Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned that it is unrealistic to assume that artificial intelligence (AI) will only lead to good outcomes, given the technology’s rapid pace of development.

President Tharman acknowledged that AI has the potential to deliver significant “early wins” in various sectors such as healthcare, food security, fraud detection, education, and finance. These early successes, he suggested, could help instill public confidence in AI’s potential to be managed effectively.

He said, “These advancements will help to give confidence to the public that we are on the right track and that AI is not uncontrollable.”

The President, however, also warned about the substantial challenges that lie ahead. He said, “It’s going to be hard, steering AI to deliver the most good and prevent the worst, [that and] climate change is probably going to be the most complex and important challenge facing the global community. And with the most profound consequences if we get it right or wrong.”

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Noting that the current pace of AI advancements and technological progress is rapidly outstripping the development of public policy and regulatory measures, President Tharman said that some negative outcomes are inevitable.

“It is therefore not realistically achievable to avoid the risks of bad outcomes altogether,” he noted, “That has to be our frame of mind, trying to get the most good, but accept that there will be bad outcomes.”

Stressing the collaborative effort required across various sectors to navigate the future of AI, he added: “Ultimately, it’s not about the technologies, it’s all of us—scientists, engineers, policymakers, private operators, labor leaders, civil society—whose decisions, disagreements, and hopefully growing affinity with each other because of our common interests will determine the course of humanity.”

The ATxSummit, organized by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), is set to host 3,000 attendees from 55 countries. The summit will feature prominent figures from the global AI industry and regional leaders, such as OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati and Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy.

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As the summit progresses, the discussions and insights shared are expected to shape the trajectory of AI development and governance, addressing both its potential benefits and the critical challenges it presents.