Recent technological advances have drastically improved the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) – for example, to identify patterns in data, make predictions, recognize visual cues, and react to human speech – with applications across fields as varied as transportation, health care, and national defense. As AI continues to evolve, its potential to fundamentally alter our social and economic realities is growing. This is – rightly – attracting the attention of governments.
The role of govts
To promote and safeguard the public interest, governments have a vital role to play. First, governments must respond to technological change – for example, through regulatory changes to manage risks related to privacy, bias, accountability, and safety, and through policies and programs designed to broaden the socioeconomic benefits of technological change. Second, they have the opportunity to adopt new technologies – to vastly improve the speed and quality of service delivery, and more efficiently and effectively analyze and develop public policies.
Governments across Canada – and around the world – have, however, typically struggled to keep pace with technological change. We saw this in the slow reaction to the rise of digitally enabled sharing economy businesses, with governments in some cases attempting to put the breaks on change, and generally lagging in the redesign of regulations to protect public interests without adding excessive administrative burdens that could stymy product and service innovation.
As AI continues to advance, the potential for governments to be caught on their back foot remains high. To engage with AI advancements more proactively and thoughtfully, governments require a clearer line of site into this quickly changing field.