Balanced approach to AI

There are many factors and methods to be considered when dealing with such a powerful and consequential technology as AI, the power of which is yet to be fully unleashed.


The words Artificial Intelligence are seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/THE PHILIPPINE INQUIRER

July 31, 2023

MANILA – The University of the Philippines (UP) recently released a draft set of guidelines on the “responsible use” of artificial intelligence (AI), kickstarting a timely and consequential discussion on how to handle the rapid development and adoption of the technology that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates declared was “as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the internet, and the mobile phone.”

The state university recognized that while AI—generally defined as the simulation of human intelligence by machines—has the great potential to “transform education” and already “makes our lives easier” by automating a growing list of tasks, it also comes with serious risks and problems that have to be confronted and dealt with.

In the academic setting, UP said the challenges from AI with applications, such as the popular ChatGPT that can be prompted to answer exams and produce a wide range of texts including research papers based on information from the internet, “range from systemic bias, inequality for marginalized groups of students, privacy and bias in data collection and processing.” It cited fears that these applications can open the door to cheating and plagiarism, thus, it is “imperative for the national university, to promote the positive use and mitigate the negatives of AI.”

This urgent discussion should be made beyond the UP academic community and in other fields from civil society, the corporate sector, to the government as it looks increasingly inevitable that AI, as Gates puts it, “will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other.”

This explains the mad rush by corporations here and abroad to harness its capabilities to transform themselves, enhance their competitive advantage and spread its benefits, from use as language translators and voice assistants, virtual health aides for patient monitoring, and data crunching to monitor changes in the environment.

David R. Hardoon, Aboitiz Data Innovation chief executive officer, said AI can indeed be used by enterprises and economies to achieve a shared vision of sustainable and inclusive growth across the region. There is no need to fear AI, he added, even if its rise does pose as many questions as it does possibilities.

And it is on these growing concerns that a continuing multisectoral and multidisciplinary discourse should center, as the risks of the unfettered development and application of AI are indeed immense and potentially dangerous.

As Gates conceded, such a “disruptive” technology as AI was “bound to make people uneasy,” and that like most inventions, it “can be used for good purposes or malign ones.” He urged governments and the private sector to work on ways to limit the risks, such as the possibility that AIs “will run out of control.”

For UP, guardrails that it intends to put in place to mitigate the risks of AI on the academic community are spelled out in the proposed guidelines, which include making sure that humans “should ultimately remain in control of, and thus morally responsible for, the behavior of AI systems,” and that it should contribute to the public good by “fostering inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, political empowerment, and enhanced well-being.”

Regulating AI is another avenue being considered to contain the potential risks.

The European Union, for example, is wrestling with an Artificial Intelligence Act that it said would focus primarily on strengthening rules around data quality, transparency, human oversight, and accountability. More importantly, it aims to address ethical questions and implementation challenges, which led to the agreement last June to include in the draft a ban on the use of AI technology on biometric surveillance.

In the Philippines, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers filed a bill calling for the creation of the Artificial Intelligence Development Authority, a “superbody” that would protect the public against the risks and dangers posed by emerging global AI technologies by overseeing the development and implementation of a national AI strategy.

Clearly, there are many factors and methods to be considered when dealing with such a powerful and consequential technology as AI, the power of which is yet to be fully unleashed.

It is crucial at this point of rapid AI development that in-depth conversations toward a “balanced approach” begin in earnest in the Philippines, the same way that it is being tackled in other countries. Stakeholders can be guided by what Gates said: “The world needs to establish the rules of the road so that any downsides of artificial intelligence are far outweighed by its benefits, and so that everyone can enjoy those benefits no matter where they live or how much money they have.”

It would be a folly to simply ignore AI as it is here—and it is here to stay.

scroll to top