Legislator Roundtable: Geopolitics and AI

Geopolitical trends are having a profound impact on the governance of Artificial Intelligence. The Institute of AI is therefore delighted to have brought together legislators from around the world for two roundtable discussions on how continued global collaboration is possible.

Hearing how their varied experiences affect their work was invaluable as themes emerging from the discussion suggest that legislators are keen to collaborate across borders in addressing a wide range of concerns.

Participants: Australia, Canada, Chile, European Parliament, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, UK, USA

The following emerged as key issues where international collaboration will be crucial.

1. The Balance of Power: The Role of the Private Sector on the Global Stage

Legislators expressed concerns over the balance between public and private influence in the sphere of artificial intelligence. It was suggested that there was a time where regulators were regulating, and players were playing, but we are now living in a world where resisting the influence of private entities is becoming ever more challenging. At the same time, others emphasised the importance of finding ways to foster private sector innovation while also holding these companies to account.

The different roles to be played by the private sector and government in the development of standards was discussed, with the suggestion that governments must first develop frameworks before industry plays a crucial role in developing complex international standards, such as those formulated by the ITU.

It was put forward that increased legislator engagement and collaboration can help to provide a counterweight to private companies. It was also noted that it will be important to close a ‘knowledge gap’ between legislators and technologists by teaching the former more about technology and the latter more about governance.

2. Executive Checks and Balances: Government Uses of AI

Concerns were not only raised with respect to the private sector. Legislators had varying concerns on how governments are using AI, whether this is in authoritarian regimes or democracies.

It was noted that during the pandemic, many have experienced what it means for parliaments to not understand what governments are doing, let alone exert any control over it. This means we need a parliamentary network that can scrutinise government use of technology now more than ever.

Questions were also asked on how democratic nations might be able to do more to mitigate unethical government uses of AI.

3. Addressing the Potential Balkanisation of the Digital Space

Finally, when it came to the potential Balkanisation of the internet, legislators had varying views. The divergence of the USA and China was discussed while the position of Europe was noted as distinct, in part due to Europe’s relative strength in research compared to industry.

Continued collaboration where possible was supported, and the importance of extending this cooperation to involve more developing countries was emphasised.

Overall, there was a sense that international collaboration must be built into our work in addressing these concerns right from the start, before different regions already have different strategies in place. The Institute of AI looks forward to facilitating further collaboration in the future.