The world is moving towards the fourth industrial revolution, one powered by artificial intelligence with preparation and adaptation processes already taking shape across the globe. Conversations on the impact on jobs, machine ethics, income disparities and moral and legal responsibilities for the acts of machines have become popular in artificial intelligence circles. As has become obvious, companies and industrial processes must take steps to adapt to AI, but more importantly, government policies and legislation are required to drive the fourth industrial revolution.
This article outlines policymakers’ plausible roles in the age of machines. As suggested by the late Prof. Juma, innovations are one of the most difficult phenomena to accept by humans. There is the possibility that the incursion of AI may result in public panic, anger, and frustration especially in the developing world where conversations on AI have not even commenced. Policymaking (by this I include executive and legislative politicians and technocrats) will arguably be one of the toughest careers in the fourth revolution. Politicians will be under constant pressure to develop policies to monitor AI in order to prevent abuse and protect the rights of citizens, execute actions plans that ensure economic stability for citizens and respond to citizen’s fears of technology.
First, programs and policies must be designed to provide psychological support and reorientation aimed at overcoming psychological barriers and demonization of AI. Over the course of history, “… technological controversies often arise from tensions between the need to innovate and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability” and this tension is “… one of today’s biggest policy challenges”. He also rightly observed that “Public perceptions about the benefits and risks of new technologies cannot be fully understood without paying attention to intuitive aspects of human psychology.” Starting now, communication efforts to inform the public about the risk-trade offs and the many potentials of AI must be instituted. Using the knowledge available about machine learning, communication materials should indicate that citizens’ psychological persuasions about machines are incorrect. Again, as Juma rightly observed, “society is most likely to oppose a new technology if it perceives that the risks are likely to occur in the short run and the benefits will only accrue in the long run.” Policymakers must proffer evidence-based analysis and demolition of fear mongering amongst the citizenry by showing the opportunities and the solutions that AI provide in the long run – medical accuracy to end endemic diseases prevalent in the global south, poverty, inequality, and injustice. Using AI algorithm and data, politicians can understand the psychological persuasions of citizens and counter same with appropriate communications materials to diminish demonization and false analogies amplifying the risk perceptions associated with AI.
Second, policies and legislation must be geared towards the retraining and re-skilling of the workforce to meet the standard for working in the age of machines and to leveraging new enterprises and opportunities created by artificial intelligence. As with innovations, multiple opportunities will be created which only a retrained workforce can leverage on.
Third, new legal and regulatory frameworks have to put in place for the future of work. It has been predicted that lawmaking in the new age will be governed by the law of disruption, i.e., exponential technological changes versus incremental social, economic and legal changes, this will create conflicts between social, economic, political, and legal systems. In response, it is essential that legislative changes are innovative, flexible and takes cognizance of the fast pace of technology. Given that the new age is projected to move at an unprecedented pace, laws will need to run exponentially in order to keep up with the pace of technological growth. Legislators can no longer be regular politicians, moved along party lines but ‘technolegislators’ who understand the urgency and the need for flexibility.
Fourth, there must be guidelines setting out machine ethics to detect, scrutinize and investigate machines capability to outgrow and outmuscle humanity. The codes of ethics must ensure there are algorithm accountability, auditing, and transparency. Human affairs are largely complex, and accountability is key in our daily interactions, therefore in a world where machines take over roles previously executed by humans, we must ensure that human responsibilities, values, and ethics are maintained in the best way possible. Machine ethics is important because it will affect key areas which impose a duty of care including healthcare, education, and the military. Ethics will also mandate that machines are programmed to ensure safety, fit into social norms (this is debatable), and enhance citizen’s trust. Policymakers must work with AI developers, philosophers, sociologists and lawyers to set up flexible rules relating to ethics for machines, responsibility for machine misdemeanor and corrective measures to fix such misdemeanor in the future. Given human susceptibility to violent conflicts, the need for machine ethics in conflict situations is critical. There must be rules of engagement for machines deployed in conflict situations and or crime monitoring so as to ensure the protection of civilians and the unarmed.
Previous industrial revolutions were inspired by the development of physical infrastructure. The incoming revolution is stimulated by data, this in itself is abstract thereby making the fourth revolution complex and novel, bringing with it such issues and concerns never before experienced by the human race. In all of this, the actions and inaction of politicians and policymakers will be massively critical. Machines in the new age will provide us with the insights and perspectives to solve many of the problems that have plagued our world. However, human intelligence, ingenuity and moral judgment cannot and must not be assigned to machines, which are capable of being manipulated for human gains. Thus the responsibility of setting up ethics for the use of AI and monitoring human manipulations is pivotal. We cannot outsource political leadership and responsibilities to machines; politics and policymakers will continue to require human experience, empathy, strategy, creativity, flexibility, passion and understanding. Machines may excel at high-volume tasks but humanity is complex and novel political situations requiring human brilliance, kindness, ingenuity and moral judgment will always arise.
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Juma, C. (2016). Innovation and its enemies: Why people resist new technologies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Utomi, P. (2017). Is Nigeria the Next Haiti? Punch Newspaper. Web.
Avent, Ryan (2018). How Robots Will Break Politics. Politico Magazine. Web.