The great AI debate: Moratorium or responsible progress?

10 Apr 2023

Image: © pathdoc/

Dr Arsalan Shahid considers the implications of the recently proposed moratorium on AI development and presents alternatives that can assuage ethical concerns while promoting innovation in the AI sector.

Generative AI tools hold immense potential across various sectors, streamlining customer service, enabling automatic content creation and revolutionising entertainment. The versatility of AI has the potential to reshape industries and improve efficiency on a large scale.

However, as we embrace the benefits of generative AI, it is essential to consider its potential implications.

Recently, thousands of signatories called for a pause in training generative AI-based large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. In a controversial open letter, they called for a pause on further developing GPT-4 so that new safety protocols could be developed for such AI systems.

The letter, created by the Future of Life Institute said that if a pause could not be enacted by “all key actors” quickly, then governments “should step in and institute a moratorium”.

But while concerns about AI safety are completely valid, halting progress on development of AI systems may not be the solution nor even possible at this stage.

To better understand the complexities of this issue, it is worth considering the following questions.

Is it feasible to implement a moratorium on AI development?

Implementing a moratorium on AI progress would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. It would require the intervention of governments to halt the development of emerging AI technologies.

It would set a dangerous precedent for governments to stifle innovation, especially when it could have detrimental effects on competition and technological advancements. Furthermore not all governments may pause AI development which would see those that do fall behind in the AI race.

‘Collaboration between AI developers, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers is crucial for addressing AI safety concerns’

Historically, such attempts to halt technological progress have not proven effective. For example, in the early 2000s, the moratorium on human embryonic stem cell research in the US hindered progress in the field and drove researchers to other countries, leading to a fragmentation of the scientific community. Instead of preventing potential risks, the moratorium slowed the development of valuable treatments and cures.

Are AI companies truly reckless in their approach to AI development?

While some developers may not prioritise safety, the majority take trustworthy AI seriously. AI companies are generally committed to responsible development, with many dedicating resources to AI safety, ethics, and fairness.

Moreover, leading AI organisations collaborate with external researchers and stakeholders to create guidelines and best practices for responsible AI development.

Instead of halting progress, why not invest more in clear regulations while at the same time allowing AI technology to advance for the good of all?

What are more practical alternatives to a six-month moratorium?

Implementing adaptive regulations surrounding transparency and auditing would be more effective, ensuring AI safety without halting innovation.

Regulations can be adjusted as new information and insights emerge, allowing for a more adaptive approach to managing the risks associated with generative AI technology.

‘Addressing the implications of generative AI requires a proactive approach across a number of areas’

Encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing among AI stakeholders, establishing industry-wide best practices and ethical guidelines, and investing in AI safety research and educational initiatives can collectively create a holistic approach to managing generative AI technology risks.

How can we work together to create a safer AI landscape?

Collaboration between AI developers, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers is crucial for addressing AI safety concerns. By fostering a culture of cooperation and knowledge sharing, we can establish best practices, guidelines and standards that will mitigate risks while promoting responsible AI development. Is it not better to work together to build a brighter future rather than halt progress altogether?

Addressing the implications of generative AI requires a proactive approach across a number of areas.

For social implications, we need to invest in education and training programs and implement policies and technologies that combat misinformation and disinformation. We must also encourage a healthy balance between human and AI interactions

In terms of economic implications, governments and businesses must implement regulations and policies that protect workers and promote fair economic outcomes.

Legal implications demand a careful examination of laws and regulations related to AI and intellectual property.

Lastly, ethical implications require ensuring that AI systems are designed without bias as far as possible and with fairness and respect for privacy, to address both practical and moral concerns in the AI landscape.

The future is here, and the impact is real. While concerns about the safety of giant AI systems are valid, a six-month moratorium on AI progress is a misguided proposal.

Instead of stifling innovation, we should focus on finding ways to advance AI responsibly by investing in safety, creating regulations that promote transparency and accountability, and fostering collaboration among various stakeholders.

By Dr Arsalan Shahid

Dr Arsalan Shahid is a technology solutions lead and head of the CeADAR Connect Group at Ireland’s National Centre for Applied AI. He received an MBA from the Quantic School of Business and Technology in the US and a PhD in high-performance computing from University College Dublin.

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