In recent years, the Middle East has seen an increasing interest in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, several GCC countries have placed an emphasis on the emerging tech, with many adopting nation-wide strategies around AI. No surprise then that PwC estimates that AI could contribute up to $320 billion to the Middle East economy by 2030.
But even as AI is on the path to revolutionize everyday technology at an unprecedented pace, notable AI leaders have called for a pause in training of AI systems, which they argue could become advanced enough to pose profound risks to society and humanity.
This doesn’t really surprise Alex Altgausen, CEO of Banksters. “Sometimes it feels that AI tech has been more or less perceived as the “Wild Wild West” and the AI products as being like “Outlaws”. We all know that the “Cavalry” needs to step in at some point.”
But not everyone agrees with the approach proposed in the letter.
Abdulla Almoayed, Founder/CEO of Tarabut Gateway believes that calling for a temporary halt to AI projects that exceed the capabilities of GPT-4 is well-intended, but misses the mark.
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Almoayed says that there’s no denying the breathtaking pace of AI innovation, especially in recent months, which could be an opportunity to reflect on the unintended consequences and the potential negative impact of the tech on human society.
“However, the letter warns that AI would “eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us,” which comes close to traditional Luddite tropes. This is alarmism rather than a contribution to rational debate,” stresses Almoayed.
Altgausen has a similar view. He believes the right approach isn’t to stop developing AI but rather to build, test, and assess it before exposing it to the world. “This amazing tech can change the world just like the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. We need to adapt and accept it,” believes Altgausen.
Regulate, not ban
Proposing an alternative approach, Almoayed says that if there’s one lesson from the history of technology, it’s that technological progress is impossible to outlaw or stop at will.
“Instead of calling for an unprecedented “immediate pause” of all AI projects, now is the time to think about measured regulation, transparency requirements, and informed use of AI technology,” suggests Almoayed.
To that end, the European Union has just proposed an Artificial Intelligence Act that among other things wants to classify AI systems by risk, while mandating several requirements for its development and use.
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“With these landmark rules, the EU is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure AI can be trusted,” Margrethe Vestager, the Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, noted in a statement. “Future-proof and innovation-friendly, our rules will intervene where strictly needed: when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake.”
This makes sense to Karl Blomsterwall, CEO, Planet IX, who says that we are living in a world where the internet captures everything about each individual. Since this data, he argues, can be tampered with easily, policies such as the EU’s AI Act can potentially prevent the breach of this data and make it safer for people to use.
But therein lies the rub.
“On the other hand, these laws could affect the mass adoption and potential positive outcomes of AI, like we already see with ChatGPT being banned in Italy following the policies of GDPR,” says Blomsterwall.
And that’s why it’s time for the UAE to draft its own set of AI-related regulations to not just control, but also to cultivate the development of the technology, thereby promoting the safe use of AI.
The Emirates has been one of the few countries to recognize the potential of AI by appointing a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan Al Olama, over half a decade back in 2017.
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Olama is impressed by the potential of ChatGPT, and according to reports the UAE cabinet is keeping close tabs on the recent AI-related developments, having called for a study to assess emerging AI tech like ChatGPT and the positive impact it can have on various sectors including education, and health.
Almoayed stresses that AI is a significant step forward for civilization, and we should approach this new age with clear-sighted optimism. Clearly regulation is the way forward, and the roadblock approach adopted by current proposals leaves plenty of room for an AI-friendly dispensation like the UAE to step in and steer things in the right direction.