Skip to main content

Allow some breathing room for oversight to do its job as technical innovation evolves – look at how we have managed past pivotal points in history.

In about ten years’ time, I’ll consult with my virtual personal assistant ‘Reggie’ – via the nanochip embedded in my wrist for the latest cricket score and ask to record the second day of the Ashes test – so that I can watch it on my 10-micron wallpaper TV when I get home later tonight. Reggie reminds me: “You mentioned last week that you hoped to catch the next test match, so I took the precaution of recording it for you.” Well, thank you Reggie.

Back to the present day and I look around the room counting how many appliances or services that are in use and beneficiaries of machine learning or AI. It doesn’t take me long to get into double figures. Try the exercise. 

It also reminds me that the history of artificial intelligence is a long and winding one, with many different moments already that could be considered “pivotal.” One can understand the current angst – where will it travel to? How will this end? Whether conspiratorial or not, we are right to be judgemental. Fear of the unknown does that to us.

Technological innovation has always driven change – economic and societal – some for good and not so good, often in equal measure. Somehow over the last two centuries, we have evolved through some amazing periods of change. The printing press allowed for the mass production of books and other printed materials, which had a profound impact on society. Similarly, AI is now being used to automate tasks and generate content at a scale that was previously unimaginable.  The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, learn, and do business. Similarly, AI is poised to have a similar impact on many aspects of our lives. 

The challenge comes when evolution through technology meets oversight. Governance shouldn’t be viewed as regressive or oppressive – but equally, its executors are also saddled with the weighty responsibility of allowing technical innovation the room to breathe. AI and its predecessor: machine learning, have already been with us for some time – in retail, industrials, human sciences, financials, and linguistics. Let’s not pretend that they are suddenly the new kids on the block.

As consumers and beneficiaries of innovation, we each have a vote in how it is governed in a measured way – whether through voicing an opinion in protest or support of change. Across the wider realms of commerce, its regulators, and governments, let’s hope that they find the wisdom and collective learning – not to over-regulate. Arguably, the EU’s AI Act would seem inclined toward over-regulation, whilst the US perhaps a little too laissez-faire.

It occurs to me we might be better-served to let sector business leaders take hold of setting the agenda for governance oversight in AI – sector by sector – working alongside the corresponding sector regulators. A hasty one-size-fits-all approach harkens the famous Maslow quote, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” 

Either way, let’s not allow fear to get in the way of progress, but also be mindful that, in overall terms, Reggie may well be a force for good, albeit reliant upon some balanced decisions from the umpires.  “Reggie! What’s the scorecard looking like?”

John Bick

John has worked in financial and corporate communications for over 20 years, predominantly in the UK equity and debt capital markets from London with additional experience in the North American markets, the Middle East and Japan. Read more...