Voluntary safety commitments provide an escape from over-regulation in AI development

8 Apr 2021  ·  The Anh Han, Tom Lenaerts, Francisco C. Santos, Luis Moniz Pereira ·

With the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies in our daily lives, fear and anxiety about their misuse as well as the hidden biases in their creation have led to a demand for regulation to address such issues. Yet blindly regulating an innovation process that is not well understood, may stifle this process and reduce benefits that society may gain from the generated technology, even under the best intentions. In this paper, starting from a baseline model that captures the fundamental dynamics of a race for domain supremacy using AI technology, we demonstrate how socially unwanted outcomes may be produced when sanctioning is applied unconditionally to risk-taking, i.e. potentially unsafe, behaviours. As an alternative to resolve the detrimental effect of over-regulation, we propose a voluntary commitment approach wherein technologists have the freedom of choice between independently pursuing their course of actions or establishing binding agreements to act safely, with sanctioning of those that do not abide to what they pledged. Overall, this work reveals for the first time how voluntary commitments, with sanctions either by peers or an institution, leads to socially beneficial outcomes in all scenarios envisageable in a short-term race towards domain supremacy through AI technology. These results are directly relevant for the design of governance and regulatory policies that aim to ensure an ethical and responsible AI technology development process.

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