Will the Canadian AIDA be a tragedy?

By Gerald Trites

Until recent times, AIDA represented the popular opera written by Verdi in 1871, a tragedy in which love is contested against duty and neither wins. In Canada, AIDA now refers to the proposed legislative framework, the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act.

The proposals come at a time when AI systems are developing at breakneck speed and creating both anticipation about the power of new applications and concern about how they might be harmful to people. The situation has left many Canadians conflicted. It’s important to Canada in part because there is a strong AI development industry in Canada, which will become more important as new capabilities emerge and new applications are developed. At the same time, new AI apps are being developed for health care, creative arts and other important activities in society, for which the concerns are very legitimate.

Governments see a need to become more involved. Not just in Canada but in other countries and jurisdictions, including the US, UK, and EU, (among others) all of whom have developed or proposed legislation. So, in an international market, some degree of consistency among the various counties is essential.

At the same time, government involvement needs to be constrained from legislative rules that unnecessarily would inhibit innovation. There’s a difference between oversight and regulation.

AIDA, as it stands, needs a lot of work, with more specificity about what it means by high-impact AI and the nature of pre-release testing. As the consultation process continues, hopefully these issues will be addressed. At the same time, we must recognize that any legislative framework for AI is going to remain a work-in-process for a good many years, because AI is developing so quickly and it will be so hard to keep up with it.

It need not end up in tragedy, but there’s always the risk of that happening.

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