As anyone with mild interest to the topic has noticed, there’s been a growing concern over our relationship with the AI systems. The fear is that these systems, when left to their own devices (pun intended) will at some point in not too distant future see us, the humans as obsolete and concoct a cocktail of measures to stop anyone or anything with potential to derail it. The ‘it’ being a artificial general intelligence or AGI system which has capacity to learn rapidly, design and deploy tools to execute it’s wishes. Sounds scary? Perhaps. Too sci-fy, definitely not.
The following is reflection of the content I’ve consumed over the past weeks:
- Industry insiders are potentially terrified yet over-excited with regards to their creations.
- There are multiple open letters calling on a temporary pause for further training the current models with capabilities of Chat-GPT4 and above. Some were late to the game, others want to help the industry leaders to justify taking the time off necessary for the guardrail to be developed.
- Education programmes are being adapted to the changes in tech landscape to aid with surge in demand for the skills our education system currently fails to cater for.
- AI regulation. China, US, EU – all are taking different approaches to regulating the AI with the US trailing behind. Brussels has sprinted ahead of the US and is designing a broad, risk-based approach. Many others are looking in envy. The rivalry between the US and China may become a stumbling block as the fears of losing out drive the US capitalist model forward, and maybe not towards the best outcomes. I can’t fully agree with Foreign Policy when it writes “The East is almost exclusively focused on building up its R&D capacity and is largely ignoring the traditional ‘guardrails’ of technology management,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, the West is almost exclusively focused on ensuring that these guardrails are in place”. The West approach, as it often happens with tech regulation, is divided between the EU, the US and the UK relevant authorities keeping their political-economic interest in mind.
- …and finally, every major media outlet is covering the topic. Also, a number of niche outlets/portals have emerged, which is good as their coverage is specific and articles longer than 2 minutes. I wonder if this is scaring people too far leading to mass protests (fear of losing jobs and part of identity) or masses will remain oblivious to the oncoming changes, lost in doom-scrolling.
With so much to cover I turned to ChatGPT with its view on AI risks. The output is concise and self-explanatory:
There are several risks associated with the AI race, some of which include:
- Safety risks: As AI systems become more sophisticated, they could pose a threat to human safety. This could occur if the AI systems malfunction, are hacked, or are used for malicious purposes.
- Job displacement: As AI systems become more capable, there is a risk that they could replace human workers in many jobs. This could lead to high levels of unemployment and economic disruption.
- Ethical concerns: The development and deployment of AI systems raise a number of ethical concerns, including privacy violations, algorithmic bias, and the potential for AI systems to be used for surveillance or control.
- Geopolitical tensions: There is a risk that the AI race could fuel geopolitical tensions between countries, as each country seeks to gain an edge in AI development and deployment.
- Arms race: The development of AI systems for military applications could lead to an arms race, with countries competing to develop the most advanced and powerful AI weapons.
- Unintended consequences: As AI systems become more advanced, there is a risk that they could cause unintended consequences that are difficult to predict. For example, an AI system that is designed to optimize a certain task could end up causing unintended harm or creating unforeseen problems.
Next prompt is obvious for a curious person – OK, how do we tackle these concerns?
Addressing the risks associated with the AI race will require a multi-faceted approach involving collaboration between different stakeholders, including governments, industry leaders, researchers, and civil society. Here are some strategies that could help tackle these concerns:
- Regulation: Governments can play a key role in regulating the development and deployment of AI systems, setting standards for safety and ethical considerations. This could include establishing regulatory bodies to oversee AI development, as well as implementing laws and regulations to ensure accountability and transparency.
- Ethical guidelines: The development of ethical guidelines and best practices for AI systems could help to mitigate the risk of unintended consequences and ethical concerns. This could involve the creation of industry-wide standards for data privacy, algorithmic bias, and transparency.
- Research: Continued research into AI safety and ethics is essential to address the risks associated with AI. This could involve developing new techniques for verifying and validating AI systems, as well as exploring ways to make AI more transparent and explainable.
- International collaboration: International collaboration and cooperation between governments, researchers, and industry leaders can help to mitigate the risk of geopolitical tensions and an arms race. This could involve the establishment of international agreements on the development and deployment of AI systems.
- Education and awareness: Raising awareness about the potential risks and benefits of AI systems is essential to ensure that the public is informed about the implications of AI development. This could involve educating the public about the potential risks of AI, as well as promoting AI literacy among policymakers and industry leaders.
Overall, addressing the risks associated with the AI race will require a coordinated and collaborative effort from multiple stakeholders, involving a range of strategies including regulation, ethical guidelines, research, international collaboration, and education and awareness.
What should we make of it? I really like the views of Max Tegmark covered by Lex Friedman in one of his longform conversations. Max’s point is that what’s happening currently isn’t arms race when the winner takes all, but a suicide race to the bottom where at the end everybody loses. There’s an excellent parallel Max brings out when comparing the current leading systems in the AI race as cute and adorable baby nobody wants to see as a risk to incumbents (the us). Lex’s podcast is one of the really good sources to aid thinking.
What will the near future look like?
This is a clear sign of what industries will be affected by the AI being connected to the internet.
Skills and education. We absolutely need to focus our education system on what skills are needed in the future. We mustn’t lull ourselves into believing the AI won’t stand up for it’s own interests (and we can’t be sure of what that is). Teaching students how to manage to AI systems from core infrastructure to security to prompt engineering is necessary. We can manage the systems only when we understand how they operate. It’s harder with a learning system that can adapt to the changes in the environment (objects around it, users, conditions) and hence we need to focus on what the world of tomorrow looks like. And to teach students to design it.
Regulation is being developed in the EU. I totally agree with the position of Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age “On artificial intelligence, trust is a must, not a nice to have.” Meanwhile, the US begins to study of possible rules to regulate AI. Whilst the EU likes to regulate everything, supposedly for the better future, the US doesn’t really want to do anything that might give others edge over its technological prowess. Biden views the responsibility laying squarely with the tech companies and self-regulation. Not really a solid strategy when they all race to the bottom… China, on the other hand has been at the front of the pack. In an article dating to 2022, Natlawreview covers Chinese activities in regards to regulation. “China has taken the lead in moving AI regulations past the proposal stage. In March 2022, China passed a regulation governing companies’ use of algorithms in online recommendation systems, requiring that such services are moral, ethical, accountable, transparent, and “disseminate positive energy.”
What about the generative AI relationship to the energy? Training the models can use huge amount of energy to start with. On the other hand the AI systems can detect, highlight and correct the inefficiencies in industrial and energy systems. Take it as an investment in the future.
And lastly, the compensation mechanisms for everyone else. As with any tectonic shift, there will be small amount of winners and many losers in the AI race. In my view, the universal basic income (UBI) should be actively discussed in parliaments of the most digitally advanced countries. This will be the key measure tackling potential job loss created by the task automation. I recommend reading the opening position of the study released in August, 2021. I wonder how much have the position of UBI opponents changed over the past six months?
What can you do now?
Learn to understand how these systems impact you, think along, learn to identify auto-created content especially one that plays on our worst fears and hatred and call it out to authorities. Talk to your elected MP and ask their and their political party’s position with explanation on what they will do to tackle the areas GPT highlighted as a response to my prompt above. Educate the ones around you who discard the risks as nonsense or simple take ‘not-gonna-happen-to-us/in-our-lifetime’ approach. Consider that no industry will be untouched by the changes in technology landscape, some will be beneficial to us, others not so.
Have a nice future!