British Columbia Greens call for ‘all-partisan artificial intelligence task force’

Artificial intelligence is increasingly present in everyday life. There have been rapid advances in self-driving vehicles, paper writing and even medical research, but it raises concerns and questions about the ethics of the technology.

BC’s Green Party announced on Thursday that they are calling on the NDP government to set up a bipartisan AI task force to better understand how far-reaching the technology can be.

“How do we create a common understanding between the three parties so that we can take a collaborative approach and ensure our citizens and our economy are not negatively impacted?” said Adam Olsen, the green MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

He also points to the positive impacts the technology can have, including filling labor shortages in many sectors.

“What mechanisms do we have in place to ensure we are proactive and not reactive?” he said.

Olsen likens the new technology to short-term rentals, which he says the government has been slow to regulate.

“We could have introduced regulations before these detrimental effects materialized and were so ingrained in our real estate environment,” he said.

His push to be proactive is also urging the CEO of OpenAI — the company responsible for the popular generative AI program ChatGPT. Sam Altman recommended regulating the industry in his speech to the US Congress last week.

Experts say that such a warning from a company boss to the government is extremely rare.

“They used to be very anti-regulatory and they said, ‘Keep the government out of this,'” said Alan Mackworth, professor emeritus of computer science at the University of British Columbia.

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“Now I think there’s an awareness that there are both short-term and long-term risks… There are tremendous benefits to society if we use that properly, but I think we need to have guard rails.”

Mackworth hopes the government will consider restrictions to prevent misuse of the technology.

“We’ve known about the potential of these tools for many years, but we’re just beginning to see the real-world impact,” he said.

Canada’s Data Protection Commissioner recently launched an investigation after ChatGPT allegedly collected and disclosed personal information without consent.

British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta authorities have joined the investigation.

Lisa Beare, British Columbia Minister of Citizen Services, told CTV News she understands that AI is a problem that people and organizations around the world are grappling with.

“BC’s Information and Privacy Officer is participating in this federal investigation into OpenAI. We look forward to the findings of this investigation and open to discussions on how best to complement the work of privacy commissioners across the country,” Beare said in a statement.