You Can’t Regulate What You Don’t Understand

Article by Tim O’Reilly: “The world changed on November 30, 2022 as surely as it did on August 12, 1908 when the first Model T left the Ford assembly line. That was the date when OpenAI released ChatGPT, the day that AI emerged from research labs into an unsuspecting world. Within two months, ChatGPT had over a hundred million users—faster adoption than any technology in history.

The hand wringing soon began…

All of these efforts reflect the general consensus that regulations should address issues like data privacy and ownership, bias and fairness, transparency, accountability, and standards. OpenAI’s own AI safety and responsibility guidelines cite those same goals, but in addition call out what many people consider the central, most general question: how do we align AI-based decisions with human values? They write:

“AI systems are becoming a part of everyday life. The key is to ensure that these machines are aligned with human intentions and values.”

But whose human values? Those of the benevolent idealists that most AI critics aspire to be? Those of a public company bound to put shareholder value ahead of customers, suppliers, and society as a whole? Those of criminals or rogue states bent on causing harm to others? Those of someone well meaning who, like Aladdin, expresses an ill-considered wish to an all-powerful AI genie?

There is no simple way to solve the alignment problem. But alignment will be impossible without robust institutions for disclosure and auditing. If we want prosocial outcomes, we need to design and report on the metrics that explicitly aim for those outcomes and measure the extent to which they have been achieved. That is a crucial first step, and we should take it immediately. These systems are still very much under human control. For now, at least, they do what they are told, and when the results don’t match expectations, their training is quickly improved. What we need to know is what they are being told.

What should be disclosed? There is an important lesson for both companies and regulators in the rules by which corporations—which science-fiction writer Charlie Stross has memorably called “slow AIs”—are regulated. One way we hold companies accountable is by requiring them to share their financial results compliant with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or the International Financial Reporting Standards. If every company had a different way of reporting its finances, it would be impossible to regulate them…(More)”