Lawmakers push for regulations on AI tech

  • By Lin
    Ji-shing 林基興

In May, G7 leaders deliberated over the rules and regulations on artificial intelligence (AI). Near the end of that month, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, whose company created the online chatbot ChatGPT, along with 350 leading figures of the AI industry, released a brief statement: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

In June, European Parliament lawmakers discussed a proposed law called the AI Act to regulate it. In Taiwan, the government has been drafting basic acts to regulate AI systems, which has divided opinions. For instance, due to the changing nature of AI technology, some say that hasty legislation could hinder the development of the industry in Taiwan.

The regulation of technology across countries is not unprecedented. An example is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Established in 1995, the agreement has changed along with the times. The Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 was superseded by the Paris Agreement, which was enacted in 2016. To optimize benefits and minimize risks of regulation, laws must be updated in accordance with actual demands.

The current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has an interview with Christopher Nolan, writer and director of the film Oppenheimer. When asked why he chose J. Robert Oppenheimer — a US physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb — as the topic for a movie, Nolan said: “We’ve got generations of people giving intellectual context to the idea of Armageddon, which disguises it and makes it all feel a bit more acceptable as part of the life that we’ve grown up with under the shadow of the bomb. Other than the Bulletin and the Doomsday Clock, that’s all we have to remind people of the terrible situation we’re in.”

With Oppenheimer, Nolan wanted to remind the world of the catastrophe that nuclear weapons can lead to.

The war between Ukraine and Russia continues. In February, Ukraine gained the upper hand because of assistance from Western countries. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev’s response was to threaten the world with nuclear bombs and say that without the existence of Russia, there is no need for the world to exist. In contrast, at the beginning of the Cold War, when the US was looking into developing hydrogen bombs, US Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Arthur H. Compton said that if victory depended upon using a destructive bomb, then it would be better to concede defeat. The contrast is obvious, reflecting Greek philosopher Protagoras’ statement that “Man is the measure of all things.”

German philosopher Immanuel Kant holds that a good will is good only through its willing. That is, a good will is good in itself. In modern times as technology is advancing rapidly, Kant’s enlightening words should be taken more seriously.

Polish-British mathematician Jacob Bronowski’s documentary series The Ascent of Man mentions the good nature of humanity. An example is the heroism of the atomic weapons specialist Louis Slotin, who dropped his screwdriver during an operation of manipulating the core of a plutonium bomb and caused a huge shower of deadly neutrons. To protect others, Slotin pulled the pieces of the bomb apart with his own hands, dying of radiation sickness nine days later.

Such deeds are based on altruism. Thanks to the development of civilization, technology can be updated at any moment. Yet for the sake of people’s well-being, society should know that technological developments should be regulated in accordance with the times.

Lin Ji-shing is a university professor.

Translated by Emma Liu

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