Can “we the people” control the AI?

Can “we the people” control the AI?

Can “we the people” control the AI?

>>> DOWNLOAD MP3 <<<

Technologist and researcher Aviv Ovadya isn’t sure if generative AI can be governed, but he thinks the most plausible way to control it might simply entrust those who will be impacted by AI to collectively decide the ways to curb it.


This means you; it means me. It is the power of large networks of individuals to solve problems more quickly and more fairly than a small group of individuals could alone (including, for example, in Washington). It relies heavily on the wisdom of crowds, and it happens in many fields, including scientific research, business, politics, and social movements.

In Taiwan, for example, civic-minded hackers in 2015 formed a platform – “Virtual Taiwan” – which “brings together representatives from the public, private and social sectors to discuss policy solutions to issues primarily related to digital economy”, as explained in 2019 by Taiwan’s digital minister, Audrey Tang in the New York Times. Since then, vTaiwan, as it is called, has tackled dozens of issues by “relying on a mix of online debates and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders”, Tang wrote at the time.

A similar initiative is Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review, which was signed into law in 2011 and informs the state’s voter population about ballot measures through a citizen-focused “deliberative process.” About 20 to 25 citizens representative of the entire Oregon electorate are gathered to debate the merits of an initiative; they then collectively write a statement about this initiative that is sent to other voters in the state so they can make more informed decisions on election days.

So-called deliberative processes have also successfully solved problems in Australia (water policy), Canada (electoral reform), Chile (pensions and health care) and Argentina (housing, land ownership), among others.

“There are obstacles to making it work” when it comes to AI, acknowledges Ovadya, who is affiliated with Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and whose work increasingly focuses on the impacts of AI on society and democracy. “But empirically it’s been done on every continent in the world, on every scale” and “the sooner we can get some of these things in place, the better,” he notes.

Letting people decide what guidelines are acceptable regarding AI in particular may seem weird to some, but even technologists think it’s part of the solution. Mira Murati, CTO of prominent AI startup OpenAI, told Time magazine in a new interview: “[W[e’re a small group of people and we need a ton more input in this system and a lot more input that goes beyond the technologies— definitely regulators and governments and everyone else.”

Asked if Murati fears that government involvement can slow innovation or whether she thinks it’s too early for policymakers and regulators to get involved, she tells the outlet, “It’s not too early. It’s very important for everyone to start getting involved given the impact these technologies are going to have.”

In the current regulatory vacuum, OpenAI has taken a self-governing approach for now, instituting guidelines for the safe use of its tech and pushing out new iterations in dribs and drabs — sometimes to the frustration of the wider public.

The European Union has meanwhile been drafting a regulatory framework — AI Act — that’s making its way through the European Parliament and aims to become a global standard. The law would assign applications of AI to three risk categories: applications and systems that create an “unacceptable risk”; “high-risk applications,” such as a “CV-scanning tool that ranks job applicants” that would be subject to specific legal requirements; and applications not explicitly banned or listed as high-risk that would largely be left unregulated.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has also drafted a voluntary framework meant as guidance for companies, but there remains no regulation– zilcho — when it’s sorely needed. (In addition to OpenAI, tech behemoths like Microsoft and Google  — despite being burned by earlier releases of their own AI that backfired — are very publicly racing again to roll out AI-infused products and applications, lest they be left behind.)

A kind of World Wide Web consortium, an international organization created in 1994 to set standards for the World Wide Web, would seemingly make sense. Indeed, in that Time interview, Murati observes that “different voices, like philosophers, social scientists, artists, and people from the humanities” should be brought together to answer the many “ethical and philosophical questions that we need to consider.”

Maybe the industry starts there, and so-called collective intelligence fills in many of the gaps between the broad brush strokes. 

Maybe some new tools help toward that end. Open AI CEO Sam Altman is also a cofounder, for example, of a retina-scanning company in Berlin called WorldCoin that wants to make it easy to authenticate someone’s identity easily. Questions have been raised about the privacy and security implications of WorldCoin’s biometric approach, but its potential applications include distributing a global universal basic income, as well as empowering new forms of digital democracy.

Either way, Ovadya thinks that turning to deliberative processes involving wide swaths of people from around the world is the way to create boundaries around AI while also giving the industry’s players more credibility.

“OpenAI is getting some flack right now from everyone,” including over its perceived liberal bias, says Ovadya. “It would be helpful [for the company] to have a really concrete answer” on how he establishes his future policies.

Ovadya similarly points to Stability.AI, the open-source AI company whose CEO, Emad Mostaque, has repeatedly suggested that Stability is more democratic than OpenAI because it’s available everywhere, whereas OpenAI isn’t. currently only available in countries where it can provide “secure access.”

According to Ovadya, “Stability’s Emad says he’s ‘democratizing AI’. Well, wouldn’t it be nice to use democratic processes to determine what people really want? »

Can “we the people” control the AI? by Connie Loizos originally posted on TechCrunch


Do you find AfroNaija useful? Click here to give us five stars rating!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button