The European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI) has released a statement echoing the concerns about AI development raised in an open letter signed by over a thousand prominent figures in the AI and IT domains. The open letter appeals for a six-month halt in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems larger than GPT-4, citing potential risks to society and humanity.
The signatories of the letter express their concerns that powerful AI systems could propagate propaganda, disseminate misinformation, lead to unprecedented job loss, and ultimately make humans obsolete. Even if these claims are only partially true, they would result in far-reaching disruptions at both societal and individual levels.
Regulatory authorities and certification frameworks
Recognizing the integral role of geospatial information in various sectors and its significance in many large-scale AI systems, EUROGI stresses the need to take these concerns seriously. The organization believes that all entities involved in the future of geospatial information and technologies should carefully consider the implications highlighted in the letter.
During the proposed pause in AI development, the signatories of the letter propose several recommendations, including the establishment of rigorous safety protocols overseen by independent experts and the implementation of robust governance systems. They advocate for the creation of regulatory authorities dedicated to AI, oversight mechanisms for highly capable AI systems and computational capabilities, as well as auditing and certification frameworks. The letter also underscores the necessity for liability frameworks, increased public funding for AI safety research, and well-resourced institutions to address the economic and political disruptions AI may cause, particularly to democracy.
Examining AI within the geospatial industry
EUROGI acknowledges that these concerns go beyond the scope of the open letter. Several experts, including Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI) and Prof Stuart Russell of the University of California, Berkeley, have called for urgent measures to regulate AI development due to its potential for harm. The organization also highlights the bipartisan agreement in the USA regarding the regulation of powerful AI systems.
While the European Union is currently considering a bill addressing AI safety, EUROGI points out that this falls short of encompassing the comprehensive measures proposed in the open letter. Given that a significant portion of large AI system development occurs in the USA, EUROGI emphasizes the urgent need for consideration by European and international bodies within the geospatial sector.
EUROGI supports the call for immediate action and will present its own proposals to address the measures mentioned in the open letter. The organization underscores the importance of taking decisive steps to regulate the rapidly expanding power of large and interconnected AI systems before it becomes too late.
In conclusion, EUROGI urges reflection on the development of powerful AI systems, emphasizing the necessity of thoughtful consideration regarding their potential impact. The EUROGI statement concludes with a pertinent reminder in the shape of a line from the movie Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”.
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