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Opinion: Global Safety Summit on AI avoids real issue

The first global safety summit on Artificial Intelligence is a fact. Prime Minister Sunak organised the conference because he believes that the issues related to AI can only be dealt with by governments. But the real issue with AI remained undiscussed at the summit, Reijer Passchier claims in Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.

What was discussed at this AI summit?

The intention of this global summit was to discuss the threats from AI. Before the summit, British Prime Minister Sunak held a speech in which he expressed his concerns about the development of AI: how easy it might become to build chemical weapons, terrorist groups who might use AI for their own purposes, and the danger that humanity could lose control of AI.

He spoke of the importance of working towards global regulation. This was also the goal of this global summit. World leaders thus discussed issues such as ‘disinformation, cyber-attacks and the likelihood that AI will soon go beyond a “frontier” and threaten life as we know it.' (Passchier).

The real problem

Passchier, Assistant Professor Constitutional and Administrative Law, claims however that the real issue remained untouched: 'The power to control this technology is mainly in the hands of a few very large commercial giants – in which only a very small number of CEOs and major shareholders call the shots.’

These commercial companies 'almost unilaterally decide what AI applications will be developed, at what pace, the acceptable risks in the process, the values AI should serve, and under what conditions others may use AI. In doing so, their own private interests (or delusions) are usually paramount. Not the public interest.’

The winner takes it all

According to Passchier, the danger from the development of AI lies in the fact that a small, powerful group own this technology. They are up front going full steam, and no one can catch up. 'Those who already possess certain technology can develop AI further. Those who develop AI further have more users, data, and thus opportunities to add to it’. Since society worldwide, including our governments, depends on the digital network, that constitutes a threat. 

Passchier: 'Whoever has the best AI then, in turn, attracts more users, can collect more data, and so it goes on. With such strong “network effects”, it is not only a case of the rich getting richer (and the poor getting poorer), but also “the winner takes it all”.’

Find out more?

Passchier believes that AI requires a different legal system. Read his full opinion piece (in Dutch) in de Volkskrant (€).

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