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Do we need more governance when it comes to generative AI?

Governments must walk a delicate balance not to stifle the huge innovation potential of artificial intelligence, writes Jobbio’s Aoibhinn McBride.

Governance (Michał Jakubowski on Unsplash)

Michał Jakubowski/Unsplash.

In March, the UK government released a white paper, entitled “ A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation”.

Following on from its AI Governance and Regulation Policy Statement which was released in 2022, the white paper stipulates that the UK government has no plans to regulate AI via legislation and instead responsibility will fall on the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to oversee AI activity in every sector.

It set a deadline of 23 June for feedback to its proposals, and aims to publish an AI Regulation Roadmap later this year.

This stance is in direct contrast to the EU’s approach where legislation that was first proposed in April 2021 is on the cusp of being passed into law by member states before the end of this year.

Regulation versus innovation

But does regulation stifle innovation? Or does a lack of regulation and legislation allow for potentially dangerous technological advances to slip through the cracks?

“It is on all of us to be able to regulate and treat it [AI] the same as climate crisis, or the pandemic or nuclear,” said Dr Patricia Scanlon, the founder of Soapbox Labs and Ireland’s first government-appointed AI ambassador, at the recent Dublin Tech Summit.

At the conference to deliver the opening keynote, Dr Scanlon acknowledged that while that was a provocative statement to make, “the idea here is to provoke discussion, to convey urgency, and to ensure that we don't just sit on our laurels and say, well, let’s just see what happens.”

She also likened innovations in generative AI to a “revolution” and emphasised that it shouldn’t be reduced to a productivity tool or a passing fad.

“There is this mindset, I’ve heard it a lot and I’m sure you all have, that regulation stifles innovation. If that was the case, I don’t think you’d see innovation in fintech, biotech and medtech in health care because they’re heavily regulated spaces, but people still manage to operate in them.”

She continued: “Misinformation and disinformation is a huge risk. We’ve seen it already on social media. Imagine doing that on scale. If we allow it to go unregulated, and nobody has to worry about misinformation, disinformation, you know, freedom of speech, whatever you want to call it, we could end up destabilising our own governments, because of the race in politics and people indiscriminately using these tools because they're not regulation.”

Opposition

Business leaders, however, aren’t in agreement and in an open letter, signed by over 150 executives from companies including Siemens, Renault and Airbus and Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Meta, competitiveness was highlighted as one of the most important elements when considering the EU’s proposed regulation.

“In our assessment, the draft legislation would jeopardise Europe’s competitiveness and technological sovereignty without effectively tackling the challenges we are and will be facing,” they signatories wrote.

“Such regulation could lead to highly innovative companies moving their activities abroad, investors withdrawing their capital from the development of European Foundation Models and European AI in general. The result would be a critical productivity gap between the two sides of the Atlantic.”

And while the consequences of regulation—or lack thereof—remain to be seen, the good news for those working within tech is that AI is expected to create 97 million new jobs by 2025.

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