Artificial intelligence

By Tony Lopez

Today, tomorrow begins, thanks to Artificial Intelligence. AI.

AI, says IBM, is “technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.”

In plain language, AI is a robot acting, thinking and moving like a human being. Such robots are not perfect yet, but since they are faster and better at writing computer codes, robots will soon act, think and move better than humans. By then, they could eliminate humans from the face of the earth.

As of now, the robot can do four basic things: form words into sentences; draw or paint or make videos; form sentences into complete thoughts or literature; make computer programs or algorithm or sets of computer instructions to do a particular task. These four an AI robot can do many times faster, and probably better, than an ordinary human.

According to the European Union, AI can create many benefits – better health care; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; cheaper and more sustainable energy.

Such capacity is what makes AI exciting, disruptive and – dangerous. In its disruptive capacity, AI has been likened to electricity, or an electric motor, or railways. In its dangerous potential, AI has been likened to nuclear power, only worse. An atomic bomb cannot form mindsets or influence thinking or attract followers with the charisma of a Pope Francis, Gandhi, Mandela or Taylor Swift.  AI can.

So humans must act now before they are overwhelmed by robots more intelligent than them. So far, these robots are deficient in a few things. They lie and lie shamelessly, a process called hallucination. They do not have emotions – yet. They are not sentient – yet. Once these robots learn feelings and emotions, human existence as we know it today could disappear.

On March 13, 2024, the European Parliament adopted the world’s first Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act), to cover data quality, transparency, human oversight and accountability.

The EU wants to regulate AI to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology.

In the US, the Department of Defense has come out with an action plan and recommends five steps:

1) Establish interim safeguards to stabilize advanced AI development;

2) Strengthen capability and capacity for advanced AI preparedness and response;

3) Increase national investment in technical AI safety research and standards development;

4) Formalize safeguards for responsible AI development and adoption by establishing an AI regulatory agency and legal liability framework;

5) Enshrine AI safeguards in international law and secure the AI supply chain.

For the EU and the US, the idea is regulate AI, one, by adopting a law or regulations on it; two, setting up an agency for AI; and three, seeking international cooperation for its development, use and propagation.

Before an AI system can be deployed, it must seek regulatory approval, just like drugs or surgical methods or instruments.

The Philippines is perhaps one of the many countries in the world without such a framework like an AI Code, an independent AI agency and a formal policy or program.

Sure, the Department of Trade and Industry under then secretary Ramon Lopez adopted an AI Road Map, in May 2021. Nothing has been heard about it.

In Congress, Surigao 2nd District Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers has filed House Bill 7396, “An Act Promoting the Development and Regulation of AI in the Philippines,” to address the potential risks and challenges by “providing a comprehensive framework for the development and regulation of AI in the country.”

Barbers’ bill would create a “superbody” to protect the public from the risks and dangers posed to the world by the emerging global AI technological phenomenon.

“The wave of attention around ChatGPT late last year helped renew an arms race among tech companies to develop and deploy similar tools in their products,” he pointed out. “When the internet went trendy and different social media platforms came to existence, such as Facebook, Messenger, Viber, Instagram, etc., unscrupulous persons used them in various criminal schemes, such as financial scams, drug trafficking and extortion. With this new AI technology, many people would also surely use it in dubious activities,” he worried.

The youthful Surigao solon was horrified by the disclosure of Geoffrey Hinton, AI’s godfather, “AI could kill humans and there might be no way to stop it.”

Also, advocacy groups and tech insiders are alarmed the new AI-powered chatbots “could be used to spread misinformation and displace jobs,” fretted Barbers.

Sensing AI’s enormous economic potential, private investors sank $92 billion in AI in 2022, led by the US and China. That will approach $200 billion by 2025, according to Goldman Sachs.

In launching the DTI AI Road Map, then secretary Lopez cited a recent McKinsey report, as of 2022: 50% of surveyed organizations reported having adopted AI in at least one business unit or function, up from 20% in 2017. AI usage has rapidly grown in the past half-decade, but leveled off since 2020.

McKinsey revealed that AI could “automate about 50% of the work activities performed in ASEAN’s four biggest economies” – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Research firms EDBI and Kearney both expect AI to boost Southeast Asia’s GDP by up to $1T by 2030.

Kearney estimates a 12% increase in the Philippine GDP by 2030, or by $92 billion.

“AI-driven precision farming can drastically decrease losses due to pests and natural disasters, while also increasing significantly outputs of high-value products per hectare of land,” said Lopez.

“We expect our Road Map to not only improve the competitiveness of our enterprises, but also engender more affordable, more accessible and more bespoke public services – including disaster preparedness and management, education and health care,” Lopez said then.

What has happened since then?

—Philippine Star, March 19, 2024