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AI is Political

AI is Political - Gege Gatt

This article was first published on the Times of Malta on the 25th of April 2023

In the age of rapidly evolving Artificial Intelligence (AI), the question we must ask ourselves is not whether we can trust AI, but to what extent can we manage and oversee its development and deployment. As AI increasingly shifts from taking over mundane tasks to more complicated ones, governing the scope and implications of such systems becomes an urgent political requirement.

The benefits of AI have led to extremely fast adoption curves. ChatGPT registered 100 million monthly active users in two months, by comparison it took Instagram 24 months to reach this level. As businesses handover more and more tasks to AI tools, staying competitive in the market will increasingly be correlated to the use of AI. Gradually, AI will make more critical decisions with less oversight as systems become more complex and less intelligible.

This has broader implications: countries too are compelled to hand over more operations to AI to maintain an edge in a high-speed, competitive landscape. The UK is strengthening its digital infrastructure to solve, through AI, long-standing delays in public healthcare. China’s 2030 strategy has led to key advances in facial recognition and AI-assisted traffic management.

This presents questions of implementation, oversight and alignment: both between AI models and humans,and between human society, companies, and government. As we develop more powerful systems, we must have better tutelage of their trajectory, and value-based involvement in their shaping. We are at a crucial turning point, possibly the most significant of this century, where our decisions will shape the future relationship between humans and AI.

Times of Malta Dr. Gege Gatt
In the context of Malta and its public sector, the importance of embracing AI cannot be overstated. Learning from the past, where resistance to IT integration in the 1980s hindered progress, Malta must adapt, retrain, and harness the transformative power of AI.

While it is unrealistic to aspire for global leadership in AI (as previously attempted with DLT/cryptocurrencies), Malta can adopt a proactive and adaptive approach to AI implementation. The nation’s future hinges on the successful marriage of technology and policy, allowing Malta to remain competitive in an ever-evolving global landscape.

The Marxist struggle between labour and capital has long been central to our political history. AI requires no wage and is available at a marginal cost of zero whilst presenting the possibility to unlock the re-humanisation of ‘work’. An opportunity exists to reimagine the Maltese public sector activities which have been often rules-based and repetitive. AI can automate such tasks, freeing up human resources for higher-value pursuits.

Within this decade, the Maltese public sector can transform itself by shedding vast amounts of the present mundane chores, focusing instead on the essence of what its work should be: to serve fairly, efficiently, intelligently and with dignity. By integrating AI into its operations, the public sector can tap into new efficiencies and improved services while reinventing itself as a model employer and service provider.

But a smooth transition requires vision, values, and preparedness.

  1. Firstly, a public policy articulated by government and supported by industry and academia, setting forth a clear path for all stakeholders. This vision should be grounded in reality, devoid of fairy tale expectations or economic miracles, and instead provide concrete steps for implementation and tangible deliverables. Malta’s small size offers a distinct advantage: nimbleness in decision-making and execution.
  2. Secondly, governing bodies composed of outstanding people must establish regulations for the development and deployment of AI systems. Transparency, accountability, and ethical guidelines must be established to ensure AI technologies remain aligned with human values and interests. Government must actively collaborate with AI researchers and the industry to stay abreast of the latest developments and to devise agile policy responses.
  3. Thirdly, we need to address the issue of distribution of wealth that AI creates. As AI systems automate tasks and make industries more efficient, the resulting economic gains must be shared more equitably. Measures such as universal basic income, worker retraining programs, and other social safety nets must be considered to avoid exacerbating income inequality.
  4. Fourthly, the nature of work itself must be reevaluated. As AI systems increasingly take over routine tasks, we need to focus on developing human-centric skills and fostering creativity, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. The transition to a more AI-assisted society demands a shift in how we approach education and employment which can only be tackled by a novel advance in public policy. Our education systems must beredesigned to foster critical thinking, digital literacy, and adaptability. Employability is now less about what you know, and more about your ability to learn over time. Furthermore, governments must effectively promote innovation while safeguarding job opportunities and social welfare.

The AI debate is not a technical one focused on digital tools. It is a political and societal conversation about how we coordinate our actions to navigate the complex and rapidly changing landscape that is emerging.

By anchoring the conversation on alignment and political leadership, we can maximise our prospects of channelling AI’s potential for the collective good, as we embark on a shared journey towards a future where human flourishing must remain paramount.

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