• Squaring the circle – regulating AI

    “AI will probably have consciousness, but it will not be omnipotent.” Photo: Abigail Russell.

    Indrek Seppo is a data scientist and AI expert at the University of Tartu.

    European Focus: Technology entrepreneurs published a joint statement a few months ago, suggesting putting the development of AI systems on hold for six months. What do you think of this idea?

    Indrek Seppo: I don’t think it would be technically feasible. In addition, I have no faith that we will be able to figure out in six months how to continue. Even if artificial intelligence develops consciousness – and it will inevitably happen in my opinion – we do not know today how it will behave, or how it will be used.

    Should countries prepare legislation or another institutional framework for AI to regulate its increasingly frequent use?

    Yes, our laws definitely need to change because of AI. But the problem is that nobody knows how. Regulation just for the sake of it would not help anyone and might only worsen the situation.

    A simple example: We have millions of graphics cards in people’s hands. How do you regulate what a teenager does in his bedroom? Good luck!

    What are the most common misconceptions about AI?

    Artificial intelligence is not omnipotent. It will be smart, it will probably have consciousness, but it will not be omnipotent. Taking over the world will also be a serious challenge for AI because superhuman intellect is not enough.

    I also see a misconception that AI is somehow just a statistical machine that imitates intellect. If something looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, functions like a duck, then it is a duck!

    Many people are concerned that AI wants to reproduce, and to take over the world. That could happen, but it’s by no means certain. Our human desires evolved long before our minds did. Maybe in a few years our best psychiatrists will investigate why artificial intelligence keeps wanting to switch itself off.

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