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The late American computer scientist John McCarthy is said to have coined the word Artificial Intelligence in 1956 while co-authoring a proposal to the famous Dartmouth conference.

The moot proved to be a starter for AI as a field of study and research. McCarthy, the father of Artificial Intelligence as he was widely known in the world of computer science, while penning the word AI would have barely imagined his innovation would pose one of the greatest challenges to the nation states after the passage of about seven decades.

The transformative innovations of AI have equally shaken the developed and developing nations where individuals, companies and governments are wondering how they can use this advanced technology constructively and avoid the destructive part attached to it.

The world is seized with a highly debatable question if AI is an opportunity, a threat, or even both? Programmed to think and act like humans, the AI tools like Chat GPT of Open AI and Bard of Google have already revolutionised the world of writings. Authoring lengthy analytical economic reports, essays and blogs stands to be the matter of seconds now, thanks to the text generation and analysis tools AI has offered.

Exponential growth of AI: need for global regulations to keep misuse in check

However, AI, which can simply be defined as machines simulating human intelligence, has got all the potential to put to risk the very survival of its creators.

The computer scientists across the globe are ringing alarm bells over AI and calling on governments to take and discuss AI as a policy matter and establish a global AI governance regime.

They fear that AI, in the wrong hands, may prove disastrous for ill-prepared nation states who are already wrangling over their petty self-serving geopolitical and geo-economic interests, instead of joining forces to work for the greater good of mankind.

Experts want the constitution of a global AI watchdog which, on the pattern of International Atomic Energy Agency or International Monetary Fund, could mitigate AI-originated threats like online scams, cyber warfare, spread of misinformation and propaganda and what not.

A computer security firm McAfee in recent research found that a host of free AI tools are available on the internet using which a scammer can easily clone any audio. The matching ratio between the cloned and original voice is up to 85%, in fact a catchy recipe for internet scammers.

Pakistan is the world’s fifth most populous nuclear-armed nation and can in no way stay oblivious to the challenges and opportunities AI has brought to its doorstep. The country of about 250 million people has recently drafted its National AI Policy that the industry stakeholders find as unclear and incoherent.

Inevitable rise of AI: opportunity more than a threat

The most prominent among those voices was that of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), the largest representative body of foreign investors ranging from operating in Pakistan, whose members include the likes of global technology giant IBM & SAP.  

“National Artificial Intelligence Policy Draft misses risk management,” the OICCI said in a feedback report to the ministry of information technology. Any official AI policy the government devises must establish clear guidelines on data collection, storage and usage to check the misuse and breaches of personal data, the foreign investors body suggested. The government appears very keen to embrace Artificial Intelligence, but its policy draft needs to be a bit detailed and address potential challenges.

The challenge of AI policy development is encapsulated in the Collingridge Dilemma: a methodological quandary where we cannot anticipate a challenge until we face it and when we do face it, there will be no time to tackle it.

Underscoring need for regulations, US-based expert says AI has potential to be catastrophic

The policymakers would have to strike a delicate balance between rapid policy responses to emerging technology and the prudence of waiting for a deeper understanding of its implications over time. We cannot afford to mindlessly rush policy responses when it comes to multi-faceted technological advancements such as AI.

For example, the most apparent danger AI innovations is perceivably posing to humans is unemployment.

The smart mechanisation of manual work is expected to leave millions of people jobless across the world. Even giants like IBM are reported to have planned about 80,000 layoffs. But one also needs to keep in mind the estimates of the World Economic Forum that shows AI will create 12 million more new jobs than 85 million layoffs it will cause by 2025. This means it will create 97 million new jobs.

Here is where policymakers in Islamabad should roll up their sleeves as those new jobs – the World Economic Forum explains – will require necessary skills and technical knowledge.

The government’s policy, therefore, must strike a balance between promoting AI innovation and addressing potential risks, such as biases in AI algorithms or AI’s impact on job displacement.

It would be pertinent to mention here some of the important recommendations the Overseas Chamber has made to the policymakers:

  • Public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about data privacy and the measures in place to protect their information as ethical AI deployment is critical for public trust and long-term success

  • Integrating the principals of fairness, accountability, transparency and explainability in AI policy

  • Establishing an independent body to assess AI applications for ethical considerations to ensure responsible AI adoption

  • For risk management framework, Pakistan needs to set up an independent AI regulatory body to define guidelines, policies and procedures

  • Since AI keeps evolving, regulations need to be updated frequently and relevant organizations may develop customized frameworks to suit their specific AI development needs

  • AI regulators must establish rules on data privacy, data security and AI ethics and work with companies, universities and organizations to ensure compliance

  • Pakistan needs state-of-the-art lab staffed by forensic experts to identify and check AI frauds

The government of Pakistan should make education a national priority as we can never reap the fruits of AI advancements without equipping our young population with the required skills and education. People’s development to be precise. We should have a society that is educated enough to make the proper and best use of technological advancement that is coming our way in the shape of AI.

Illiteracy needs to be taken head-on and the government should budget enough funds and make sure the money earmarked is proactively spent to get the desired results.

The experts attach great importance for the governments to start a conversation about how we prepare our society, the economy and political system for all the AI implications emerging. They have set a five-year deadline for the governments to take a concerted policy stance, or the world will have a tsunami of AI effects.

10 urgent policy priorities for Pakistan towards AI-readiness

The world has this window of time to discuss this emerging challenge and decide its future course of action to turn this challenge into an opportunity.

The policymakers in the west have already delayed a policy response to AI with the United Kingdom saying London does not need to establish a dedicated regulator for AI. However, countries like Canada, the European Union and Singapore have devised clear AI policies on ethical considerations, data governance and AI innovations.

Pakistan can learn from the experiences of these countries and adopt best practices for addressing ethical challenges as well as encouraging responsible AI development. Pakistan, to have its contribution in shaping the global AI landscape, also must engage multinational organisations like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Economic Forum.

Collaborating with these organisations and participating in global forums on AI governance will boost Pakistan’s understanding of international AI standards and augment its position as a responsible participant in AI revolution.

The government’s response to AI should be quick for this technology is expected to spread at a pace far quicker than our routine lengthy policymaking parliamentary processes. Let’s get on it before this revolutionary asset of technology turns into a liability for Pakistan.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Zeeshan Ul Rub Jaffri

The writer is a social activist and communication consultant

Comments

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KU Oct 03, 2023 06:51pm
The present use of various Apps is already witnessing scams and money swindling schemes, and these Apps and software are available over the counter and used for illegal online scams. To date, only a handful of criminals have been caught and yet to be sentenced because current criminal laws do not recognize computer track and trace proof or documents, nor are the judges qualified to understand the nature of the crime. AI in Pakistan will devastate and ruin the common people and perhaps exploit our justice system and bring forth misery.
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Nauman Sheikh Oct 04, 2023 09:26am
It would be beneficial if the Govt. and think tanks actually identify useful applications in various sectors of Pakistan like education, healthcare, agriculture, fraud detection, etc. where AI can dramatically improve service and efficiencies. As that activity starts, it will become obvious how to draft a Dos and Don'ts legal framework borrowing from other countries around deep fakes and impersonating, forgery, etc. AI is actually the next stage in the evolution of systems and since our society still functions on manual and paper-based operations, it will be very hard to use AI effectively. Therefore, fast experimentation is the key to identify areas where it can have significant economic and social impact first before undertaking a more philosophical view of its application.
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DBX Oct 04, 2023 05:41pm
Pakistan is being ruled by AI tools! Where have common sense and wisdom gone?
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XY Oct 06, 2023 01:19am
@DBX, Extensive use of booti, cartoos...and pherrahs...at al level...what else one can expect from the decline at all levels!
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FoodFTht Oct 07, 2023 09:38am
@DBX, In pursuit of happiness via mega acquisitions of real estate, common sense and wisdom are put in jail!
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Cold Method Oct 08, 2023 06:03pm
The nation that sells votes for a plate worth of Biryani, has rampant inflation and bribery, cannot put food on table — is teetering on verge of collapse. Working on sophisticated computers is a far flung thing for them, let alone understanding AI.
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