September 21. 2023. 1:52

The Daily

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Artificial intelligence : We must prevent the dictatorship of the machine

Artificial intelligence is revolutionising the economy but it’s also threatening civilisation. To protect us from this peril, we need to go much further than the “AI Act” due to be voted on next week, writes Emmanuel Maurel.

Not a day goes by without witnessing the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence. AI is already used in everyday life: communications, translation, video games, soon autonomous cars, but also mass surveillance systems… and armed conflicts. The possibility of “killer robots” arriving on the battlefield is anything but theoretical.

In an open letter published in April, a thousand researchers and industry professionals called for a six-month moratorium to draw up regulations aimed at preventing AI from being “dangerous to humanity”.

Less apocalyptic, but nonetheless extremely worrying: the possibility of spreading false information using photos and videos created from scratch by AIs, almost indistinguishable from the real ones.

In a context of standardisation of content on social networks and streaming platforms via algorithms, this kind of innovation will harm not only the manifestation of truth, but also culture and its diversity – and therefore civilisation.

It is therefore important to develop an educational project around artificial intelligence, with the aim of informing citizens about the risks associated with AI, but also training them to use AI responsibly and ethically.

Strong measures are needed to regulate AI, particularly with regard to human rights. For instance, is it necessary to use facial recognition technologies for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris ? The French National Assembly, which voted in favor of this last month, should have been more cautious instead of embarking on such a slippery slope for fundamental freedoms.

In the meantime, the European Union has taken up the issue and is developing legislation that is intended to be protective – and uniform across the continent, to avoid any temptation of “digital dumping”.

The provisions contained in its “AI Act”, which will be put to the vote in the European Parliament in June, offer an interesting perspective, emphasising the importance of the human role in supervising artificial intelligence.

But organising such supervision will require Europe to equip itself with highly qualified control units, and there is a shortage of candidates. Moreover, humans need to be able to “unplug the machine” manually, without the need for computerised, digitised mechanisms.

Whether we are talking about control or AI development, where we are lagging behind the USA and China, we will have no choice but to implement an extremely proactive strategy to prevent the “brain drain”, redoubling our efforts in training and consolidating an ecosystem conducive to the emergence of specifically European AI.

An important aspect of this strategy is the collaboration between companies, governments, AI experts and civil society, who must work hand in hand to bring about a regulated use of artificial intelligence.

Right away, we need to counter the voracity of the digital giants, to prevent any misuse of AI, particularly in terms of personal data protection, invasion of privacy, misinformation, health insurance and so on.

Everything remains to be done to establish a specifically European vision of AI, in contrast to the Chinese model but also the American model. Microsoft, which has invested heavily in OpenAI and its “ChatGPT”, has just laid off its entire AI ethics team…

Last but not least, AI risks causing massive social destabilisation. Recent studies predict that 300 million jobs could be outsourced to AI ! After relocating the working class to Asia, multinationals are preparing to replace the middle class, including the most highly educated, with autonomous software.

Our democratic societies will not survive this. In this case, acting now on the sharing of working time and added value, as well as on working conditions, is not an option but an obligation.

Everything must be done to ensure responsible and ethical use of AI, in the interests of European workers and citizens. We can’t let the machine decide everything instead of humans.

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