Experts divided on need for regulation of AI

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 25 May, 2023

Experts divided on need for regulation of AI

Experts from RMIT are divided on whether there is a need for more regulation to curb the excesses and potential risks of advanced artificial intelligence.

Dr Dana McKay, Senior Lecturer Innovative Interactive Technologies from the university’s School of Computing Technologies, said regulation is essential to protect vulnerable populations from the biases of AI products.

“Women are more at risk from deepfakes, creatives are seeing their work stolen and losing their income streams, low-paid jobs are more easily replaceable, biases in existing data (such as racism) are seen in AI-facilitated decision-making, and low-income people have less chance of fighting back against the AI systems working against them — as we’ve seen with Robodebt,” she said.

“AI products are created by companies for financial benefit, not for social good. This means they are controlled by a handful of privileged people, and the details of how they do things are hidden behind the defence of ‘computer as neutral expert’. We need regulation, and we need it quickly to tackle a rapidly developing technology that could have many foreseen and unforeseen harms.”

Potential solutions to the risks involved could be requiring companies to be cleared by a national body of AI ethicists staffed by a diverse representation of communities, she said. An AI “supertax” could also raise money to pay for the environmental costs of running and creating AI and supporting content creators whose works are being used to train AI models, McKay added.

But Dr Nataliya Ilyushina, a Research Fellow from the College of Business and Law, said it would be premature to impose tough regulation on AI without considering its enormous potential productivity benefits.

“One fear of AI is the potential for widespread job losses, but the effect of AI on the economy is more complex than the automation of some occupations — or tasks within occupations,” she said.

“The essence of AI lies in its ability to complement human workers rather than replace them. Existing research demonstrates a substantial increase in productivity, with knowledge workers experiencing an immediate 40% improvement through the adoption of AI.”

Ilyushina noted that AI also has great potential to create new categories of jobs as well as replacing others. “For instance, the role of a ChatGPT prompt engineer is currently being advertised with a salary in excess of $300,000. Implementing excessive regulation can impede this progress and hinder the emergence of new types of work,” she said.

Lisa Given, RMIT’s Enabling Impact Platform Director for Social Change, Research and Innovation Capability, said regulation will be critical to ensuring that AI tools can be used appropriately and effectively to benefit rather than harm greater society.

“AI tools have the potential to disrupt workplaces and people’s everyday lives. However, the technology is still in evolution, which requires a moderated approach to balancing real concerns against a potential future that may not materialise,” she said.

“The key advice for consumers and businesses alike is to be cautious in our interactions with information shared online (whether text, audio or video) and to employ critical thinking and assessment strategies to combat those who would use these technologies with ill intent.”

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