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Considering The Fine Line Between AI Democracy And Autocracy

Considering The Fine Line Between AI Democracy And Autocracy

Nir Kaldero is chief AI officer at NEORIS and Adjunct Executive for AI at CEMEX.

The world is in constant high-speed transition. We have entered a period in which the battles of good and evil, light and dark, democracy and authoritarianism are at high stake and being defined.

Although it might sound like a John le Carré novel, this is the world we are living in. A real war rages in Europe alongside a reemerged Cold War among untrusting superpowers. Technology and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as the ideology that will dominate these fields, are also being shaped in real time, even if many of us are unaware of the battles being fought behind our computer screens and closed doors.

In this article, I will look at the various themes—invisible to most—within this struggle that will have a tremendous impact on our lives today and long into the future. It is indeed a fight for the soul of the planet and what kind of world we will have. Government meetings have even been called to examine these issues, so crucial are they to our future.

As you read this piece, consider how we should be thinking about these topics. What is the good and bad we can interpret from them? What are the potential benefits versus the risks? What are the nuances which make ethical decisions difficult in practice?

AI Regulation: These days, the stakes are high for AI in terms of its impact. Regulations can have great power (although hard to enforce), and unregulated AI can bring great harm. This debate is especially being played out on Facebook and Twitter. We know of the harm AI’s algorithms can cause—a point especially brought to the forefront with social media and body image for girls and young women. As a technology community, how do we balance its great transformative potential?

Equality, Freedom And AI: These issues have bubbled over and even become the focus of legislation aimed at Twitter, especially with billionaire innovator Elon Musk contemplating (paywall) buying it. The U.S. wants to be a leader in innovation standards and in the value of equality and freedom as it relates to AI. What this means is important no matter your politics. Among the issues with Twitter was how it banned former President Donald Trump from the platform. Musk aims to allow Trump back, letting his messages rise again through the AI algorithm. Various states, including Texas, are considering laws preventing politicians and what some might deem hate speech from being banned on social media, while blue states and even the Supreme Court try for the opposite.

Democracy Versus Autocracy In AI: The above issues demonstrate the strong tension between democracy and autocracy when it comes to AI, putting technology in the middle. How do we balance it? Is hate speech free speech? Do we allow people to watch and listen to whatever the algorithm feeds them based on their past browsing habits, creating an echo chamber? The promise of technology is that tomorrow will be better than today. How does this ideal fit into the clash between AI democracy and autocracy? Where do we put boundaries between great potential benefits versus possible harm? These issues are at the heart of the debate on banning certain kinds of political speech on social media. But is banning simply corporate autocracy? We never want to stifle innovation, but we need to think about the benefits versus the harm when we democratize.

Promoting Good Through AI: We can develop direct and indirect strategies to promote good through AI with supporting regulations. But what will this entail? What are the risks to consider or take? Will these efforts promote or hamper free speech? What about hate speech? What will they do to already existing inequalities that social media seems to exacerbate? How do we focus on diversity and equality in technology and create accountability while expanding legal rights?

Tech Standards On A Global Basis: There is no more technologically advanced country than the U.S.—the birthplace of the internet. This set forth a Western ideology of standards in how we express ourselves globally, with the European Union aligned but often with more regulation to protect the privacy of its citizens. However, there is a parallel world being created by China, set off by a firewall to prevent its people from learning freely. What will be the global standard for technology? Is there a global CTO for the world?

National Investment And Job Training: Mid-century’s Space Age set off an unprecedented expansion of math and science learning in the U.S. We need this investment again. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives are not luxuries anymore. They are necessary to remain a technologically advanced country. To achieve this lofty goal, what should be our monetary and political investments on a national level to advance the U.S. and provide the right legal framework to harness potential and hedge risks? Certainly, job training. We need to develop strategies to train people to enable an economy for all in which everyone understands the benefits but also bears the risks.

The famous phrase “It takes a village” applies here. It takes everyone within society to make an impact, from the government to enterprises to open-source technology communities. We must act now. We must demystify AI with fairness and responsibility while being competitive to harness its transformative power and potential. Democracy and, indeed, our very way of life could depend on it.

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