White House To The World, Artificial Intelligence Is A Political Thing
Amid the summit hosted at the White House, and warning from AI experts, the world can't simply leave the machines to their own devices.
PARIS — It was a White House summit with significance on two very different levels. Vice President Kamala Harris gathered the major U.S. players in Artificial Intelligence, including Open AI, the company that developed the now infamous chatbot ChatGPT.
The meeting was interesting for having highlighted the role of the vice president, who has been given the task of leading policy on future technologies, just a few days after President Joe Biden launched his campaign for a second term, at the age of 80.
Indeed, Harris' role is all the more essential due to the president's advanced age; she automatically takes his place if he is incapacitated. And as the Democratic vice president has so far not “made an impression” over the past two years, she is being put forward on this topic. And what a topic it is...
Inimitable progress, incalculable risk
The heart of the meeting was on the 'risks' of this technology. Just as AI is crossing a threshold that raises massive questions, Geoffrey Hinton, one of the American “godfathers of artificial intelligence” resigned from his position as chief engineer at Google this week because of the dangers he sees in the technology.
This includes AI’s ability to improve with each interaction, constantly becoming more efficient. No human can match this rate of progress. In an interview with MIT, Hinton said, "These things will have learned everything from us, read all of Machiavelli’s books, and if they're smarter than us, they'll have no trouble manipulating us."
That sounds worrying, no?
This doesn't necessarily mean that, like in science fiction, the machines will take control over humans. But it does mean that they will significantly transform the way our societies function.
Vice President Kamala Harris with tech CEOs at the White House AI Summit
Two issues immediately come to mind: employment and democracy. The changes to employment are clear, but catastrophic predictions are not helpful. If jobs disappear as a result of the rise of artificial intelligence, which is already a reality, now is simply the time to prepare.
Artificial intelligence can impact the reliability of information.
Its effects on democracy are equally pressing, and uncertain. We are already witnessing the damage that the chaotic rise of digital platforms has done to political debate. The manipulative operations of companies like Cambridge Analytica or more recently Team Jorge are known to us. They use technology in subtle ways to manipulate issues that are crucial for our society. This is a first taste of how artificial intelligence can impact the reliability of information.
New technologies benefit society immensely, especially in fields like medicine. But they are often a double-edged sword; what can save one life can destroy another. The conversation that began Thursday at the White House concerns all of us around the world: since the impact is societal, our political system must know how to respond.
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