Two New Zealand researchers are leading the charge for an international AI framework to evaluate new digital technologies.
Sir Peter Gluckman, director of Koi Tū, and Hema Sridhar, Koi Tū strategic adviser for technological futures, are the lead authors of a discussion paper to inform the multiple global and national discussions taking place related to AI.
The paper, A framework for evaluating rapidly developing digital and related technologies: AI, large language models and beyond, was released by the International Science Council ahead of the AI Safety Summit being held in the UK next week.
The authors say it is critical that rapidly developing technologies are subject to broad evaluation to maximise the benefits and minimise the very real risks.
Sir Peter says the desire to regulate and govern technology is understandable, but we are at a critical time when comprehensive discussion about the future of technology is needed, and the discussion cannot be captured only by governments and industry.
The analytical framework was not limited to AI and could be applied to any rapidly emerging technology, such as gene editing or quantum. The issues are grouped into categories including wellbeing (including that of individuals or self, society and social life, and civic life), trade and economy, environmental, geo-strategic and geo-political and technological (system characteristics, design and use).
“The conversation needs to go beyond the simplistic – this tech will create a nirvana or this will destroy the world. The reality is in the history of humankind, all technologies get used. They always get used for good purposes and bad purposes. But having this sort of framework allows us to have the discussions about how to take any new technology and make it most likely that the good and beneficial purposes will be supported and the negative will be prevented.”
Sir Peter says the definition of what a negative purpose is has changed.
“Negative used to be simply that it would produce a bomb or a weapon and kill people. Negative now means what it will do to society, what it will do to mental health, and what it will mean for society. So the raft of downsides has changed.”
Ms Sridhar, who leads Koi Tū’s work on the impact of technology on society, says the framework acts like a checklist and will be useful for all policymakers, decision-makers and the private sector.
“It’s useful for companies too because they should be thinking now about what they need to address and how to get a social license to use their technologies.
“We’re not saying technology is good or bad. We’re saying technologies are going to be used. It’s about how you make it most likely that societies will benefit and not be harmed by the technology.”
“It gives a layer of objectiveness to an area that has traditionally been quite subjective. And in many cases, we’re seeing the capability of the technology is evolving. So the framework gives an objective way in which you can say, here’s what we assessed as of today, and in a year or two you can review it and see if these risks have manifested, or if they haven’t. And then make sure that our measures are appropriate for what the technology actually is,” she says.