For months, my colleagues in the BC Green Caucus and I have been discussing artificial intelligence (AI). The AI industry has the power to impact personal privacy and fundamentally change our society and economy.
How? That’s a problem. We currently have no idea of the extent of the impact. Also, consider that the threats and opportunities today may not be the same tomorrow, as the digital ecosystem is changing rapidly.
Based on my experience as an MLA over the past six years, our provincial government is both passive and reactive in the digital environment. We’ve noticed the silence from the British Columbia government on this issue and decided it was time for the BC Green Caucus to call for action.
The purpose of this post is not to educate you on AI. I don’t know enough to better inform you about weak (or narrow) AI and general AI, tools designed for narrow or broad applications. While I have read and listened to many experts discussing this new industry, I am not an expert, and that is at the heart of our call to the British Columbia government.
Our government needs to do more than nothing to ensure the elected Members of our Legislative Assembly have a common understanding of the threats and opportunities presented by the emergence of these tools. That is why we are calling the Premier to create an all-party task force so we can collectively become better informed.
The pace of this new world is quickening since the public launch of ChatGPT. Immediately, millions of people jumped at the opportunity to use this new tool. Users started posting videos on social media about how to craft prompts that produce the best responses from the language model.
Following the release of ChatGPT, a steady flow of new AI tools has been unleashed. These tools are more than just essay-writing tools. There are tools that edit video, create stylish images of the Pope in a Balenciaga puff jacket, and so on. New tools are being developed and released daily.
The longer global, national, and sub-national governments take to create a robust regulatory regime for AI, the more entrenched the digital arms race becomes, as developers race to create ever more intrusive tools to be the first to break through a space.
One example is ChatGPT, which has already become the brand name for all artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, when the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, now joined by provincial privacy commissioners, announced they are investigating ChatGPT for a potential privacy violation, it does not replace the need for a task force. It is one instance, from one tool. A drop in the bucket, as they say.
A statement from Lisa Beare, British Columbia Minister of Citizens’ Services, says, “B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner is participating in this federal investigation into OpenAI. We are eager to see the results of that investigation and are open to discussions about how we can best complement the work that the privacy commissioners are doing across the country.”
I think this says it all. The threat and opportunity go much further than privacy. AI has the potential to generate disruptions in society and our economy that we will recognize as both incredible opportunities and existential threats. A responsible, democratic government is proactive, doing its best to understand the landscape and preparing legislation and regulation to minimize the negative impacts and better position us to benefit from the opportunities.
Consider this: What if the British Columbia government had a legislative and regulatory response to short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb and other platforms, when they were emerging? Instead, we waited.
Now, years later, because his predecessors passively waited, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is scrambling to create new regulations, long after the disruptive tech has had a devastating impact on the real estate market. In some respects, it’s too late for many communities.
When are we going to learn from past mistakes? When is our democratic institution going to mature so we can see past our partisan interests and do the job we are elected to do, proactively working to protect and enhance the interests of British Columbians? I think this needs to happen sooner than later!
Note: The title of this post was generated by ChatGPT using the following prompt: “You are a headline writer for a blogger. Generate an SEO-optimized, click-bait headline for the following blog content.” I took the first offering and could have gone much further. Also, this post was edited by ChatGPT using a prompt requesting the language model not change content, but edit for grammar.