May 31, 2023


Recently, an open letter by a few notable individuals raised concerns about AI’s potential to threaten jobs in the country and warned of the dangers that would befall us if we did not immediately regulate it. While there is merit in thinking about how AI should be regulated, we need to recognize that AI will change the ways in which we work, making many of the jobs that currently exist irrelevant. However, fresh skills and new jobs will replace them, and it is never too early to start thinking about how to deal with this change.

Regulation of AI is necessary as it is on track to becoming an all-pervasive technology that seeps into various aspects of our lives. Countries like the US and the European Commission have attempted to regulate AI in their own ways, with the US taking a laissez-faire approach and the European Commission proposing detailed legislative action. However, both regulatory proposals attempt to fix what we believe we know is wrong about algorithmic systems. These proposals help prevent the discrimination that these systems perpetrate and mitigate privacy harms that could occur when AI systems use our information for purposes other than what they were collected for.

We need to recognize that generative AI is capable of unpredictable emergent behavior that often has no bearing whatsoever on the programming it received. These systems are adaptive, capable of making inferences far beyond what their human developers might have envisioned, and are autonomous, making decisions that often have no correlation whatsoever with the express intentions of their human creators. We cannot hold the developers of these systems personally liable for this emergent behavior, as it will force them to shut down any further development for fear of the liabilities they will have to suffer on account of the very emergent behavior that is its strength.

Instead, we need to adopt an agile approach to AI regulation that is grounded in a set of cross-cutting principles that describe, at a high level, what we expect AI systems to do and not do. We can apply these principles across all the different ways in which AI is deployed and can identify harms at the margin and take appropriate corrective action before the effects become too widespread. The UK government’s recently published Pro-Innovation Approach to Regulating AI seems to be taking this approach by following an agile and iterative approach designed to learn from actual experience and to continuously adapt.

India has not yet proposed any regulations for AI, but it is essential to start thinking about how to regulate it effectively. We should aim to strike a balance between regulation and innovation, so we do not hinder the growth of this transformative technology. We must take steps to address the risks associated with AI, while also harnessing its benefits.

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