Innovation does not abide by conventional speed limits. Artificial intelligence is the latest in a growing catalog of emerging technologies changing workplaces, schools, media and more.
In fact, it’s a major point of contention in the Hollywood actors and writers strikes and at the heart of an open letter by thousands of authors concerned about AI companies using their copyrighted works to train AI models.
The enormous excitement for AI’s value also brings a counterpart of concern for controls and governance. Innovation has come rapidly in ways that may be rendering existing laws, practices and policies outdated in regulating these new and emerging technologies. AI was a big topic of discussion at the G7 summit. Also, China just issued AI guidelines.
And as we see the field of use cases for AI continue to expand, tech industry regulation is producing much debate among companies, policymakers, experts, lobbyists and even individuals. We need “and” thinking, not ”or,” meaning that governments, policymakers, individuals and other stakeholders must collaborate to strike a balance between innovation and responsible regulation.
Europe Making Moves on Artificial Intelligence
AI regulation is happening. The European Parliament recently approved legislation that would address certain uses of Artificial Intelligence, in doing so moving faster than other jurisdictions to regulate the technology.
Brussels brought a new antitrust challenge against Google as European lawmakers voted to approve the EU AI Act—jumping ahead of the U.S., where legislation has largely stalled.
“We have made history today,” Brando Benifei, an Italian member of the European Parliament working on the AI Act, said in a news conference. Benifei said the lawmakers “set the way” for a dialogue with the rest of the world on building “responsible AI.”
Meanwhile, in June, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a plan for regulating AI. “It’s not like labor, or healthcare, or defense, where Congress has had a long history we can work off of,” he said. “Experts aren’t even sure which questions policymakers should be asking. In many ways, we’re starting from scratch.”
OpenAI, the company that launched the mega-growing ChatGPT, had embraced regulation until talks got heated in Europe. Twitter will apparently stop participating in the EU’s recently enhanced disinformation code of practice.
The rapid pace of innovation, driven by AI, social media giants and other tech behemoths, necessitates a simple, achievable perspective on the dimensions and challenges facing regulating technology. Let’s break this down a bit further:
The Role Of Governments, Individuals And Other Stakeholders
When it comes to technology regulation, governments play a central role. They have the authority to establish regulations through laws and policies. Various other organizations and institutions also meaningfully contribute to regulating technology, including fact-checking entities on social media and elsewhere, unions advocating for and against selected technologies (see actors and writers in Hollywood), as well as other advocacy groups.
Programs and activities dedicated to bridging the digital divide and inequality gaps have a stake in regulating technology. Additionally, and importantly, individuals can take responsibility for managing their exposure to technology, such as regulating device use and screen time.
The ability of governments to regulate technology varies across countries. Geographic context is crucial in understanding the reasoning behind regulation. For instance, countries like the United States prioritize freedom of speech, leading to limited government intervention in censoring content on social media platforms.
In contrast, Germany has implemented laws like the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), to censor illegal hate speech. Geographic context also shapes the impact of technology on people’s lifestyles, with different countries experiencing varying benefits and drawbacks.
Technology Encompasses A Wide Range
Tech includes areas such as information technology, networks, robotics, AI, energy and transportation. The so-called fourth industrial revolution brings advancements in mobile internet, virtual and augmented reality, cloud technology and the internet of things. As technology continues to evolve, it becomes essential to understand its various forms and potential implications for the global economy.
We know the speed of technology is increasing. Over the last decade, we witnessed remarkable advancements in connectivity and innovation, characterized by AI, robotics, self-driving cars, big-data analytics, cloud technology, cryptocurrency and distributed open ledgers like blockchain.
However, existing policies addressing technology are outdated, with many, such as the United States’ CDA230, predating the dominance of major platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The timing of regulation is critical, necessitating regular updates and revisions to keep pace with continuing technological advancements.
Consider the recent Supreme Court ruling raising many questions on cyberbullying and cyberstalking—further validating the need for faster regulations. In addition, U.S. officials have been blocked from contacting technology firms in a move (now paused) that could redefine coordination between the government and social media companies.
The Case For Tech Regulation
- Protecting Democracy: Following the recent controversies surrounding elections, the increasing reach and speed of social media, regulating technology is essential to safeguarding democracy. Calls for regulation to prevent misuse, manipulation and polarization, and to protect citizenry have increased in number and volume.
- Mental Health and Addiction: Studies show a correlation between smartphone usage and increased levels of anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and a higher risk of accidents. Regulating technology can address these concerns and mitigate addiction-related issues associated with excessive device use.
- Companies Pushing Limits: Fierce competition among companies often drives them to the boundaries of legality in their quest for attention. This behavior raises concerns about potential abuses of power and competitive practices. Establishing clear regulations prevents companies from exploiting loopholes and ensures ethical practices.
Regulatory Guiding Principles
Deloitte recommends key principles to guide the future of regulation for emerging technologies and the digital economy:
- Adaptive regulation. Shifting from “regulate and forget” to a responsive, iterative, ongoing approach.
- Regulatory sandboxes. Prototype and test new approaches by creating sandboxes and inviting emerging technologies and accelerators.
- Outcome-based regulation. Focus on discernible results and performance rather than form alone.
- Risk-weighted regulation. Move from one-size-fits-all regulation to a data-driven, segmented, stratified approach.
- Collaborative regulation. Align regulation nationally and internationally by engaging a broader set of players across the ecosystem. Standards matter.
Let’s not forget that effective, timely regulation can accelerate innovation. Regular updates and revisions of policies are necessary to keep pace with technological advancements. By understanding the complexities and challenges surrounding technology regulation, we must both foster an environment that encourages innovation and safeguard society’s best interests.