How should artificial intelligence be governed?

How should artificial intelligence be governed?

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.


"AI governance" was also a big topic of discussion at Davos this week. With big business lining up behind privacy and human-rights campaigners to call for rules for AI, it feels like the political ground is shifting.

But agreeing on the need for rules is one thing. Regulating a fuzzily-defined technology that has the potential to be used for everything from detecting breast cancer, to preventing traffic jams, to monitoring people's movements and even their emotions, will be a massive challenge.

Here are two arguments you're likely to hear more often as governments debate how to approach it:

Leave AI (mostly) alone: AI's enormous potential to benefit human health, the environment, and economic growth could be lost or delayed if the companies, researchers, and entrepreneurs working to roll out the technology end up stifled by onerous rules and regulations. Of course, governments should ensure that AI isn't used in ways that are unsafe or violate people's rights, but they should try to do it mainly by enforcing existing laws around privacy and product safety. They should encourage companies to adopt voluntary best practices around AI ethics, but they shouldn't over-regulate. This is the approach that the US is most likely to take.

AI needs its own special rules: Relying on under-enforced (or non-existent) digital privacy laws and trusting companies and public authorities to abide by voluntary ethics guidelines isn't enough. Years of light-touch regulation of digital technologies have already been disastrous for personal privacy. The potential harm to people or damage to democracy from biased data, shoddy programming, or misuse by companies and governments could be even higher without rules for AI. Also, we don't really know most of the ways AI will be used in the future, for good or for ill. To have any chance of keeping up, governments should try to create broad rules to ensure that whatever use it is put to, AI is developed and used safely and in ways that respect democratic principles and human rights. Some influential voices in Europe are in this camp.

There's plenty of room between these two poles. For example, governments could try to avoid overly broad rules while reserving the right to step in in narrower cases, like regulating the use of facial recognition in surveillance, say, or in sensitive sectors like finance or healthcare, where they see bigger risks if something were to go wrong.

This story is about to get a lot bigger. The EU is preparing to unveil its first big push for AI regulation, possibly as soon as next month. The Trump administration has already warned the Europeans not to impose tough new rules on Silicon Valley companies. China – the world's other emerging AI superpower – is also in the mix. Beijing's ambitious plans to harness AI to transform its economy, boost its military capabilities, and ensure the Communist Party's grip on power have contributed greatly to rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. But China is also working on its own approach to AI safety and ethics amid worries that other countries could get out ahead in setting the global agenda on regulation.

As with digital privacy, 5G data networks, and other high-tech fields, there is a risk that countries' competing priorities and intensifying geopolitical rivalries over technology will make it hard to find a common international approach.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

More Show less

When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

More Show less

A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

More Show less

16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

More Show less

Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal