MP and Senator Launch Caucus Group on Risks and Opportunities Posed by AI, Blockchains

MP and Senator Launch Caucus Group on Risks and Opportunities Posed by AI, Blockchains
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 30, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Matthew Horwood

A member of Parliament and a senator are launching a parliamentary caucus focusing on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchains, which they say present both risks and opportunities for Canada.

“I think that there’s a lot of agreement among parliamentarians of all stripes that we need to educate ourselves and then do something about it, to both ... harness the benefits but also put guardrails in place,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who launched the cross-partisan working group alongside Sen. Colin Deacon.

According to Rempel Garner, the group will allow parliamentarians to engage with a wide range of stakeholders in relevant fields such as artificial intelligence, Web3, and blockchain technologies. They will be able to determine areas of consensus and policy objectives that will create beneficial outcomes for Canadians.

In an interview with CTV News on June 2, Rempel Garner said the December 2022 deployment of OpenAI’s artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT was “the first time a chill went down my spine.” The MP said the language model technology allows people to “sideload themselves into AI format,” with the AI models mimicking the person’s language, mannerisms, and style.

“We don’t really have rules on how that happens, or who can do that. And when you think about the impacts that that has ... on misinformation, on our democratic institutions, on scams, can you can imagine if somebody created a doppelganger of you and used it to call your parents or grandparents to ask for money. These are real things,” she said.

Rempel Garner warned that due to the pace of AI’s evolution, it is moving “faster than the normal speed of government.” She said the caucus is being launched before Parliament’s summer constituency recess so that “we’re not waiting for months for parliamentarians to learn about the scenarios that are happening, to understand the risks, the opportunities, but also what the role of government can be.”

Rempel Garner said she is optimistic that the “goodwill” of the world, particularly among innovators, would lead to AI being harnessed to bring about beneficial outcomes for humanity. “Even looking at a system like clinical trials for pharmaceuticals. Why can’t we do this with AI? Why can’t we test things before we deploy them?” she said.

Mitigate Risk, Capture Opportunity

The creation of the parliamentary caucus comes as the U.S. Congress holds hearings on the risks posed by AI. On May 16, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman warned that within 10 years, AI could be more powerful than any “other technologies humanity has had to contend with.”

Altman made several proposals to reduce the risk, including the creation of a new agency dedicated to ensuring AI companies comply with ethical standards and address the accuracy concerns that have plagued some chatbots.

Deacon said with the pace of AI advancing, the Canadian government needs to find new ways to both mitigate risk and capture opportunity.

“Because there’s tremendous opportunity in every corner of society, in the economy, thanks to AI. But also, we’re seeing enormous risk to individuals, to democracy, to financial stability. Rumours can be made and spread very quickly,” he said.

Deacon said he believes AI can be regulated using standards, certifications, and codes of practice, which would allow stakeholders and governments to enact regulatory frameworks in a more efficient and rapid manner. He cited ISO 9000—a series of internationally recognized quality management standards that help organizations meet customer and stakeholder needs and comply with regulatory requirements—as a potential model to use.

“A lot of this can happen outside of government, but with the support of government, and much much faster, more iterative, and more agile than government could ever move.”