How Can Policy Makers Predict the Unpredictable?

Essay by Meg King and Aaron Shull: “Policy makers around the world are leaning on historical analogies to try to predict how artificial intelligence, or AI — which, ironically, is itself a prediction technology — will develop. They are searching for clues to inform and create appropriate policies to help foster innovation while addressing possible security risks. Much in the way that electrical power completely changed our world more than a century ago — transforming every industry from transportation to health care to manufacturing — AI’s power could effect similar, if not even greater, disruption.

Whether it is the “next electricity” or not, one fact all can agree on is that AI is not a thing in itself. Most authors contributing to this essay series focus on the concept that AI is a general-purpose technology — or GPT — that will enable many applications across a variety of sectors. While AI applications are expected to have a significantly positive impact on our lives, those same applications will also likely be abused or manipulated by bad actors. Setting rules at both the national and the international level — in careful consultation with industry — will be crucial for ensuring that AI offers new capabilities and efficiencies safely.

Situating this discussion, though, requires a look back, in order to determine where we may be going. While AI is not new — Marvin Minsky developed what is widely believed to be the first neural network learning machine in the early 1950s — its scale, scope, speed of adoption and potential use cases today highlight a number of new challenges. There are now many ominous signs pointing to extreme danger should AI be deployed in an unchecked manner, particularly in military applications, as well as worrying trends in the commercial context related to potential discrimination, undermining of privacy, and upended traditional employment structures and economic models….(More)”