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Governance of Artificial Intelligence Is Everyone’s Business

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Mauricio Covarrubias
May 12, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a matter of public interest because it has the potential to have a significant impact on society and the economy as a whole. AI can improve efficiency and productivity in many areas, such as healthcare, industry, commerce and public services, which can lead to greater economic growth and benefits for citizens and consumers.

However, AI also presents significant challenges and risks, such as job automation, privacy and data security, discrimination and lack of transparency in decision-making. These issues can negatively affect society as a whole and may require careful attention and regulation.

The discourse surrounding AI’s effects on society has yielded divergent views on its implications. Those who espouse the benefits of AI argue that it holds great potential for augmenting human capabilities and streamlining societal processes. AI’s ability to perform complex computations, process large volumes of data at high speeds and operate with greater accuracy than humans are cited as the primary reasons for its salutary impact on society. By performing routine and mundane tasks, AI allows humans to focus on more creative and intellectually challenging endeavors, thereby contributing to greater innovation and progress.

However, detractors of AI posit that its use poses significant privacy risks that threaten individuals’ fundamental rights. The standardization of people resulting from AI algorithms reinforces and amplifies existing racial biases and discrimination, leading to disparities in access to opportunities and services. Furthermore, the automation of certain tasks may result in the displacement of human workers, leading to unemployment and the potential for economic hardship for affected communities.

Therefore, AI is a matter of public interest that requires the participation and collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including governments, businesses, consumer rights advocacy groups and society as a whole, to ensure that technologies are developed and used in an ethical, responsible and sustainable manner, and that their benefits to society are maximized.

According to Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), the concept of public interest is intricately linked to democracy and the principle of the rule of law. In numerous societies, there exists a well-established procedure of formulating a shared perception of the public interest regarding a specific matter, which is deeply rooted in legal discourse. It’s important to note that the notion of public interest can’t be applied universally and requires a participatory and deliberative process to be defined for each societal issue. Without a doubt, this applies to artificial intelligence.

A critical aspect of an application serving the public interest is that there is a certain “public” defined that has a stake in the development process. No single entity—no single person or organization—can define what the public interest is. We believe that a deliberative development process must be encouraged to achieve this. Otherwise, it is very likely that the interests of “the public” will only be assumed, but never actually met.

A deliberative process can follow different routes, such as granting transparent access to information, conducting surveys, performing design research, implementing co-design methodologies, setting up ethical review boards or engaging in regular consultations with citizens. There are numerous viable approaches to consider.

In this sense, an institution similar to a national artificial intelligence council could help in the involvement and participation of all relevant actors. Countries that have taken steps in this direction include: United States, Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (2018); China, The National Engineering Laboratory for Deep Learning Technology and Application (2017); United Kingdom, The UK AI Council (2017); Canada, Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence (2017), United Arab Emirates, The National AI Program of the UAE (2017); India, The National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (2018); France: The French National Council for Artificial Intelligence (2017); Singapore, The National AI Office (2019); and Australia, The Australian Government’s AI Ethics Framework (2019).

Each country may have a slightly different approach to the specific functions of its National Council on Artificial Intelligence, but here are some common functions observed in countries that have already established similar institutions:

  • Advising the government on policies and strategies related to AI, including regulations, incentives and support measures for AI research and development.
  • Monitor the development and adoption of AI in the country, identify challenges and opportunities and evaluate the risks and benefits of the technology.
  • Promote collaboration and dialogue between the public and private sectors, as well as between academics and other experts, to drive the development and implementation of AI.
  • Support AI research and development, identify areas where further research is needed and provide recommendations on how to finance AI research and development.
  • Promote ethical and responsible use of AI, and provide recommendations on how to ensure transparency and accountability in the development and implementation of the technology.

Overall, the National Council on Artificial Intelligence can play a crucial role in advising the government on how to develop and adopt AI in an ethical and responsible manner, and ensure that the country remains competitive in the development of the technology.

Author: Mauricio Covarrubias is Professor at the National Institute of Public Administration in Mexico.  He is co-founder of the International Academy of Political-Administrative Sciences (IAPAS).  He is the founder and Editor of the International Journal of Studies on Educational Systems (RIESED). Coordinator in Mexico of the TOGIVE Project: Transatlantic Open Government Virtual Education, of the ERASMUS+ Program of the European Union. Member of the National System of Researchers of CONACYT.  He received his Ph.D. from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @OMCovarrubias

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