The Asilomar AI Principles Should Include Transparency About the Purpose and Means of Advanced AI Systems
By Bill Hibbard
Feb 2 2017
The recently published set of 23 Asilomar AI Principles are intended to guide the development of artificial intelligence (AI). Two principles, 7 and 8, call for transparency about the reasons for harm caused by AI and transparency about explaining judicial decisions made by AI. While helpful, these two principles are much too narrow. Principles 19 and 20 describe the unlimited potential of AI to transform life on Earth. This is correct: AI will profoundly alter human life and society in ways that are impossible to for us to predict now. Many actions of advanced AI systems will be too complex and subtle for people to perceive. The only way for the public to know how advanced AI systems are affecting their lives and families is for the purpose and means of all advanced AI systems to be made known to everyone.
There are many good intentions in the 23 principles but also much ambiguity. Principles 10 and 11 call for AI to conform with human values, but people have conflicting interests and disagree about abstract values. How are conflicts among the values of competing humans to be balanced? Principle 17 calls for respecting and improving, rather than subverting, the social and civic processes on which the health of society depends. There are differences of opinion about what constitutes a healthy society, and hence a wide range of possible meanings of this principle. Without transparency about AI, the public has to trust technology elites to follow the Asilomar principles and to resolve their ambiguities in reasonable ways. History provides many examples where such trust was not justified.
AI is becoming an essential tool for military, economic and political competition among humans. Principle 18 calls for avoiding an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons and this is good (I signed a 2015 letter calling for this). However, AI arms races in economics and politics are likely to have consequences that most people would not want, if they could foresee them.
An economic AI arms race could create radical economic and even biological inequality. Principles 14 and 15 call for sharing the benefits and prosperity generated by AI, but this could mean subsistence welfare payments for those who lose their jobs to AI and enormous wealth for the owners of large AI systems. When the technology is available to enhance human brains, wealth inequality will translate into inequality of intelligence and humanity may essentially divide into multiple species.
A political AI arms race could have devastating consequences for humanity. Barrack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 were innovative in their use of Internet big-data, and the Trump campaign in 2016 found new ways to use big-data to manipulate opinion. Consider that many Internet services are provided free, with the costs borne by clients who pay to embed persuasive messages in those free services. Many of those messages persuade us to buy products and services, while other messages persuade us to adopt political positions. This business model will likely continue into the era of AI smarter than natural humans. When we adopt super-intelligent, talking machines as our constant, intimate companions, and when children learn to talk by talking with machines, AI will be able to manipulate our opinions and create extreme peer pressure to conform. The result could be humanity divided into competing communities, with extreme uniformity of opinions among members of each community.
North Korea is an example of a community with extreme uniformity of opinion. Even the US is vulnerable to this (scroll down to the third section of this article) according to Chigozie Obioma, originally from Nigeria.