Regulating Artificial Intelligence: An Unseen Future We Must Prepare For

The necessity for regulating AI was emphasized in the G20 New Delhi Leader’s Declaration last week, where leaders convened to collectively address impending challenges.

By Sanhita Chauriha, 19 Sep 2023

In the not-so-distant past, the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) belonged to the realm of science fiction, where robots with human-like cognition and emotions roamed the pages of novels and the screens of Hollywood. Fast forward to today, and AI has become an integral part of our lives, from voice-activated virtual assistants in our homes to algorithms helping us choose our next Netflix binge. While AI holds enormous potential for progress and innovation, it also raises complex questions about ethics, safety, and accountability. This is where regulation steps in as the guiding force to ensure that AI serves humanity’s best interests.

The necessity for regulating AI was emphasized in the G20 New Delhi Leader’s Declaration last week, where leaders convened to collectively address impending challenges. In an era of rapid AI advancement, the global digital economy holds immense promise. However, the journey to harness AI for the common good demands a responsible, human-centric approach. Safeguarding human rights, transparency, fairness, and ethical considerations are key in this quest. As we navigate the complexities of AI development and use, international cooperation and a pro-innovation regulatory approach become crucial pillars of a transformative future.

The Unstoppable Rise of AI

AI has come a long way since its inception. It has the potential to revolutionize industries, solve complex problems, and enhance human capabilities. Autonomous vehicles promise to make roads safer, AI-powered medical tools can aid in early disease detection, and smart cities can optimize energy consumption.

Last week, in a remarkable testament to the rising influence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a woman credited ChatGPT with aiding her in diagnosing her four-year-old son’s chronic pain. This recent claim highlights the chatbot’s astonishing capacity to transform lives. After enduring a three-year-long medical illness, during which her son’s chronic pain eluded diagnosis by a staggering 17 doctors, Courtney turned to ChatGPT as a last resort. Armed with her son’s symptoms and a trove of medical reports, she fed the information into the AI-driven conversational tool. The response she received was nothing short of a revelation: ChatGPT suggested a rare neurological condition known as tethered cord syndrome. This groundbreaking revelation not only led to a swift diagnosis but also a successful surgery that has set her son on the path to recovery. ChatGPT’s power to unearth elusive medical answers underscores its burgeoning significance in a world increasingly reliant on AI-driven solutions. Though possibilities seem endless, therein lies both the excitement and the challenge.

The Need for Regulation

With great power comes great responsibility. As AI systems become increasingly sophisticated, their decision-making abilities raise critical questions. How do we ensure AI algorithms are not biased or discriminatory? What measures should be in place to protect data privacy in an AI-driven world? These questions accentuate the necessity of regulation. It is not about stifling innovation; it is about ensuring that innovation is guided by a set of principles that prioritize human well-being, fairness, transparency, and accountability.

AI regulation needs several dimensions. Firstly, there are ethical considerations, as AI systems may inadvertently perpetuate biases from their training data, leading to discriminatory outcomes. Regulations can establish standards for fairness and non-discrimination to ensure equitable AI benefits for all. Additionally, safety standards are essential, particularly in sectors like healthcare, finance, academia, and autonomous vehicles. Regulations define these standards, ensuring AI operates safely within well-defined boundaries. Accountability is another key facet, addressing complex questions about responsibility in AI-related incidents. Regulations can provide clarity on accountability, whether it falls on the developer, user, or the AI system itself. Moreover, data privacy is fundamental, given AI’s reliance on vast personal data. Existing regulations around the world set precedents for safeguarding personal information against misuse. Lastly, transparency is vital in understanding AI decision-making. Regulations can mandate transparency, requiring developers to provide explanations for how their AI systems reach conclusions, enhancing trust and accountability in AI applications.

The Advent of Generative AI

The advent of Generative AI, commercially known as ChatGPT (OpenAI), Bard (Google), Bing Chat (Microsoft), or Midjourney (art generator), among others, encompassing text and image generators, introduces complex legal issues as it gains prominence. Challenges range from infringement of copyright due to AI-generated content resembling existing copyrighted material to privacy concerns when AI uses sensitive data. Issues of plagiarism and defamation also loom large. Addressing these challenges necessitates collaboration among stakeholders, including policymakers, legal experts, and AI developers, to establish clear guidelines and regulations that align innovation with ethical and legal responsibility as generative AI evolves.

Balancing Innovation and Regulation

The relationship between innovation and regulation is often perceived as a tug-of-war, but they can complement each other. Responsible innovation seeks to address societal challenges while adhering to ethical and legal norms. Regulatory bodies can actively engage with innovators, helping to shape the development of AI technologies.

A pro-innovation regulatory approach can encourage companies to invest in responsible AI. When businesses know that adherence to ethical and legal standards is essential for market access, they are incentivized to build trust and transparency into their AI systems.

The Global Dimension

AI knows no borders. With a clear understanding of both its advantages and drawbacks, our collective goal is to maximize the benefits while effectively mitigating the potential harms associated with this innovation. Various nations are taking proactive steps to regulate artificial intelligence: the European Union has introduced the AI Act, the United States has unveiled the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, the United Kingdom has published a comprehensive white paper on AI regulation, China is implementing AI regulations to address associated risks and impose compliance requirements on AI-related enterprises, India is in the process of proposing AI regulations under its proposed Digital India Act, and OECD has released AI Principles. This global effort reflects the recognition that AI governance is essential.

The Way Forward

Regulating AI is about ensuring that as we stride into the future, we do so responsibly and ethically. AI can be a tremendous force for good, but its potential must be harnessed within a framework that protects human rights, safety, and accountability.

The need for AI regulation has never been more evident. While AI holds immense promise to drive progress and innovation across various sectors, its unbridled use can pose serious risks to privacy, fairness, and security. To harness its benefits while mitigating potential harm, the establishment of comprehensive regulations that prioritize ethical AI development, data protection, and accountability should be taken up. Striking the right balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding our collective well-being is essential to ensuring that AI continues to be a force for good in our rapidly evolving world.

The world is at a crossroads, and the decisions we make today about AI regulation will shape the future for generations to come. It is a challenge, but also an opportunity to ensure that AI truly benefits all.

(Sanhita is a Project Fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. She works in the Applied Laws and Technology Research vertical.)