AI has been a buzzword in the tech industry since the successful launch of the widely popular ChatGPT by OpenAI last November.
AI has opened a new window of technology, bringing with it fresh opportunities and novelties. Despite the pros, experts are also shining a spotlight on its demerits, arguing that unregulated AI bots could damage democracy globally.
“AI is a threat to democracy in that much of the information we consume today is digitally mediated from social media,” said Professor Michael Osborne, the Dyson Professor in machine learning at the University of Oxford.
Large language models enable the production of endless streams of misleading, politically-motivated text that’s easily targeted to subsections of the population, explains Osborne.
While big tech giants are locked in battle to lead the AI race, the tech is evolving each day and some voices are calling for regulation.
“This could have serious consequences for democracy. These models could increase polarisation and could destabilise current social order,” said Osborne.
‘Regulators must act now’
EU lawmakers are expecting to soon approve a draft for AI regulations. The lawmakers aim for a deal with EU countries by the end of the year, as previously reported by MetaNews. However, Professor Osborne believes regulators must act now.
“ChatGPT was launched at the end of November and already there have been some estimates that it’s had something like 670 million users across the world,” said Osborne.
He went on to say that “ChatGPT is already the fastest-growing consumer application of all time, and it has achieved this without any regulatory oversight,” which has encouraged other tech companies to join the race.
“Regulators seem to be asleep at the wheel, if you ask me, because there are all these potential harms of these models that are now just out there.”
Authoritarians already misusing AI
Since AI has demonstrated its unlimited capacity to generate content, pictures, music, speech, and human-like responses, many experts believe that authoritarian leaders are already misusing it to control their citizens.
Haydn Belfield, an academic project manager at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, argues it could be misused by authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to exert greater control over their citizens and interfere in the elections of democratic states.
“Authoritarians around the world are already misusing AI to control their citizens, if surveillance and predictive policing and the use of things like drones becomes even more acute, maybe they’ve got even more ways to control their populations,” said Belfield.
Additionally, Professor Osborne believes “a totalitarian regime could roll out evermore ubiquitous, ever more powerful” AI over time.
“Couple that with manipulation through these AI models, so the more data you gather about your population, the more you can target your propaganda to individuals,” said Osborne.
AI also gives leaders a tool for control in monitoring what population is doing and flagging any behaviours that might be not in the interest of the regime.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has urged governments to address the potential risks associated with AI in a blog post.
There’s the “threat posed by humans armed with AI,” wrote Gates.
“Like most inventions, artificial intelligence can be used for good purposes or malign ones. Governments need to work with the private sector on ways to limit the risks.”