Meta’s president of global affairs decrees that concerns over AI to be akin the ‘moral panic’ over video games in the 1980s

Even if you only give tech news a cursory glance each day, you can’t have missed the fact there’s a lot of concern about the growing use of AI and the demand for tighter regulations. Enter Nick Clegg, Meta’s el presidente of global affairs, to assure us it’s nothing to be worried about, claiming that the fuss is just like how people reacted to video games 40 years ago.

As reported by The Guardian, Clegg starts his point by making an accurate, if somewhat blindingly obvious, observation: “New technologies always lead to hype.” Well, of course. No company is going to spend millions of dollars in research and development, and then not market the heck out of it.

But then the former UK deputy prime minister reminisced further. “I remember the 80s. There was this moral panic about video games. There were moral panics about radio, the bicycle, the internet.” I remember the 1980s, too, though I don’t recall there being much in the way of governments and organisations around the world clamouring for regulations on video games.

In tabloid media and news channels, sure, but Mr Clegg seems to be missing a wee point here. Video games never threatened to displace thousands of people from the workforce. 8-bit platformers couldn’t be used to deepfake a person of note and have them espousing an inflammatory opinion.

Punching a pixelated character in the face, with blocks of blood bouncing around your TV, is not even remotely as concerning as the potential for AI to be used to manipulate and misinform people with biased or discriminatory information.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact he’s representing a company with a big interest in the world of AI, Clegg continued with “[t]hese predictions about what’s going to happen next, what’s going to happen just around the corner, often doesn’t quite turn out as those who are most steeped in it believe.”

Well, that’s the intricate and well reasoned argument needed to put us all at ease then. Because clearly the word ‘often’ is a synonym for ‘never’, and Meta obviously thinks that all the current hoo-harr is just random people shouting at clouds in the sky.

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After all, it’s not like AI doesn’t result in extremely poor taste polls from appearing in news reports, or people being wrongly arrested on the basis of incorrect facial recognition. That’s before we get into any discussion about how the results of machine learning and the training of AI could never possibly result in racist or misogynistic results.

Fortunately, it would seem that authorities aren’t going to listen to what Meta or any other AI-focused company is going to say. The US government has already issued a blueprint for a bill of rights, concerning how AI systems should be designed and implemented in such a way that people benefit from it all and not the other way around.

Ultimately, it’s far better to be wary and cautious over technology that has the scale of impact as AI does, than suffer the consequences of it going badly wrong, having done little to prevent it from doing so.

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