Finkel says Australian values should shape AI debate

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has called for Australians to be “human custodians” of artificial intelligence by “being leaders in the field of ethics. “

While Australia will inevitably import AI technology Australians can create their own rules of use, Dr Finkel proposed at a Sydney conference convened by the Human Rights Commission yesterday.

“In my mind, that means showing the world how an open society, a liberal democracy, and a fair-minded people can build artificial intelligence into a better way of living,” he said.

Dr Finkel suggested Australia’s track-record of adopting another transformative technology, IVF, demonstrated how to do it.

“We had a spectrum of approaches that worked together and evolved in line with the state of the technology, and the levels of comfort in the community.  There were laws and regulations, there were industry codes and practices, and there were social norms.  We will need to develop a similar spectrum of responses to AI – so that we can strike the balance between opportunity and risk.”

And he called for a similar process, starting now, to establish the objective and rules that must govern the way the state uses AI, to serve rather than supervise.

“We must all be involved in this national discussion.  And every time we come to a decision about the technologies we allow into our lives we must ask ourselves: ‘what kind of society do we want to be?’  To start, let’s be a society that never forgets to ask that question.”

Peak engineering and technology body ATSE was quick to back Dr Finkel. “We need to adopt and adapt all of the world’s emerging technologies relevant to Australia’s needs. … AI will be part of the future of a prosperous Australia. But society will also require rules within which AI functions,” president Hugh Bradlow said yesterday


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