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AI should benefit, not harm, humans

By Liu Jianna | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-29 07:31
iFlytek's AI-enabled robot sits the test of China's national medical licensing examination. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Editor's note: The European Commission recently issued the ethical guideline for the development of artificial intelligence (AI), setting out seven key requirements including transparency and accountability of AI. How should we guide the development of the emerging AI industry? Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:

Public should have a say in rule-making

The application of AI in various industries is bound to create new types of social problems. So how can we ensure that the application of AI does not harm humans or deal a blow to the existing social management system?

That the European Commission has drawn up an ethical guideline for AI development is as much thought-provoking as it is reassuring. On the one hand, rules that aim to build human-centric AI will provide clear guidance for AI practitioners and keep related parties' behavior within bounds. On the other hand, they will have an impact on the development of the industry as oversight of and restraints on AI sector are likely to be strengthened.

By introducing the guideline, the Europe Union is attempting to occupy the high moral ground in AI's rule-making process as well as to ensure it has a say in the formation of the industry's new landscape and its dispute-settlement mechanism, even though it lags behind the United States and China in AI development.

The EU's views on emerging technologies, which are outdated and overemphasize technologies' threat to human beings and their livelihoods, have to some extent been responsible for it lagging behind countries such as the US, China and Japan in the internet and social media sectors.

In making the rules governing the development of AI and other emerging technologies, three principles should be upheld. First, it has to be ensured that AI does not cause any harm to humans. Second, the right balance should be struck between the needs of social management and industrial development. And third, a step-by-step approach should be adopted to build the AI supervision system as any major abrupt move targeted at the emerging industry risks entailing unforeseen consequences.

Besides, the rule-making process for new technologies should not be sabotaged by individual countries or entities, and people should also have a say in the matter as AI will greatly influence their everyday lives.

Wang Sixin, a professor of law at the Faculty of Literature and Law, Communication University of China

Introduction of AI guideline encouraging

Although the guideline is not legally binding, it is highly likely to influence the laws the EU will draft and enact in the future. The guideline and the subsequent laws and rules to be introduced will provide legal guarantees for and help improve the social support system necessary for the AI industry's healthy development.

Technological progress requires the synchronized advancement of the rule of law, industrial standards, ethics and humanity. As such, the guideline is expected to promote the application of AI technology in EU countries that put great emphasis on the protection of people and their privacy.

Given that the AI technology and the moral problems it could create are constantly changing, it is indeed difficult to lay down unified, comprehensive and indisputable rules for AI development. Also, governments and enterprises may have different understandings of the same law or rule due to the differences in their interests.

On the whole, the EU guideline is an encouraging sign, which governments and industries should pay more attention to, in order to strengthen the oversight of the development of the emerging AI industry and facilitate its healthy and human-centric development.

Lyu Xu, director of Technology Planning and Consulting Department, iFlytek Co Ltd

Too much restraint on the AI industry

As an emerging industry, AI is likely to be under an iron grip of the EC guideline. European countries have fallen behind the US and China in terms of emerging industries for several reasons. And the often extremely high standards set for such industries seem to be the prime reason for that.

More often than not, the issues highlighted in such guiding standards are technical, rather than ethical, matters. For instance, it is difficult for a driverless car system, in which AI plays the major role, to recognize black people. So, just because autonomous car systems cannot distinguish between white and black people, should their development be forbidden, as the European Commission's guideline seem to suggest by stipulating that trustworthy AI should promote diversity, non-discrimination and fairness, and AI systems should take into consideration the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility.

The EC guideline is expected to considerably impair the development of the AI industry in the EU by raising the costs for the companies in the AI sector.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute of the Ministry of Commerce

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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