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DUBAI: The world’s first minister for artificial intelligence says the United Arab Emirates isn’t only looking for economic benefits as it seeks to become a leading nation in the sector.

The UAE’s minister of state for AI, Omar bin Sultan al-Olama, said “quality of life” considerations were key, and also stressed the importance of a “responsible” rollout — with impacts potentially reverberating for decades.

“We are looking at AI as a tool,” he told AFP in an interview in Dubai. “It’s a tool that we need to use to unleash the quality of life aspect.”

The UAE also calls AI “machine intelligence”, defining it as a branch of technology enabling systems to “think, learn, and make decisions like humans”, which can support everything from virology to transport.

“Yes, economic gain is something that every country wants, and we want it too,” Olama added. “But... we want to ensure the development and deployment and the use of AI is responsible.”

Olama was just 27 when he was handed the cabinet-level position in 2017, tasked with launching the oil-rich Arab nation’s strategy in a field which touches everything from speech and facial recognition to commerce and autonomous cars.

His appointment came a year after the UAE also named ministers for happiness, hoping to create a “happier society”, and tolerance, mainly aimed at promoting coexistence in the Gulf country where foreigners make up the majority of the population.

The UAE’s stated goal is to become one of the leading AI nations by 2031, creating new economic and business opportunities and generating up to 335 billion dirhams ($91 billion) in extra growth.

According to consultancy firm PwC Middle East, nearly 14 percent ($96 billion) of the UAE’s gross domestic product will come from AI by 2030.

“The UAE was the only country that appointed someone to actually oversee this mandate seriously,” Olama said.

The wealthy Gulf country has invested heavily in technology over the past decade as it diversifies its economy and reduces its reliance on oil.

Its bets include driverless cars, with autonomous taxis already tested on the streets of the capital Abu Dhabi, while Dubai, another of the country’s seven emirates, aims to have a quarter of its transport driverless by 2030.

Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, touted as the world’s first graduate-level AI university, opened to students last year, and the country has launched a number of start-up hubs and training schemes.

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