Can artificial intelligence be tamed and kept under control? The debate rages on, and tech luminaries, including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, are weighing in on this thought-provoking question.
Wales, known for his candid views, likens believing in strict AI regulation to “magical thinking.” He points out that politicians and their aides often struggle to grasp the intricate workings of the internet and its potential, making the idea of regulating AI a complex challenge.
“In many cases, the question of a body like the United Nations regulating AI is like suggesting the UN regulate [image editing app] Photoshop,” he quips, emphasizing his skepticism.
The controversy surrounding AI regulation intensified this summer when UN Secretary General António Guterres convened the inaugural UN Security Council meeting dedicated to discussing the potential perils of AI. Guterres addressed a range of concerns, from AI-powered cyber attacks to the interplay between AI and nuclear weapons, stressing the need for action to safeguard future generations.
In response, the UN initiated the “High-Level Advisory Body for Artificial Intelligence,” a panel comprising experts from government, industry, civil society, and academia. This body aims to explore the necessity of global AI regulation, with its initial findings expected before year-end.
However, not everyone in the AI community is convinced that global regulation is viable. Pierre Haren, an AI veteran with 45 years of experience, is among the skeptics. Despite his extensive background in the field, he expresses astonishment at the rapid evolution of “generative AI” programs like ChatGPT, which can create new content and analogize ideas.
Haren argues that creating effective AI regulations is a daunting task, as not all nations are likely to adhere to them. “We live in a world with non-cooperative nations like North Korea and Iran,” he cautions, questioning their commitment to AI regulations.
Reinhard Scholl, founder of the UN’s “AI For Good” program, sees the urgency in regulating AI, comparing it to safety regulations for industries like automobiles and toys. He raises concerns that AI can be misused by bad actors to acquire dangerous capabilities, potentially leading to unforeseen consequences.
The debate continues on the form a future UN regulatory body on AI should take. Some suggest mirroring the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which regulates global air travel. Others, like Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, contend that regulating individual software developers and their use of AI is an insurmountable challenge.
In an age where AI rapidly evolves, the question of regulation remains complex and multifaceted, with voices from all corners of the AI landscape contributing to the discussion. The world watches closely as the AI conundrum unfolds, with no easy answers in sight.