Emerging technology policy

How should parliamentarians approach the public policy challenges arising from emerging technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

That question appears to be the raison d’être of a multi-partisan working group known as the Parliamentary Caucus on Emerging Technology (PCET). The Caucus is co-chaired by Members of Parliament Michelle Rempel-Garner, Anthony Housefather, and Brian Masse, as well as Senator Colin Deacon. The Caucus was formed recognizing that emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, are usually deployed “faster than the speed of government.”

PCET recently issued a report as an update on its summer discussions with various parties from Canada and abroad. The report listed key take-aways:

  1. Canada needs more forums and opportunities for multi-partisan discussion and education on issues like AI, in the House of Commons and the Senate
  2. Canada can benefit from working collaboratively on the international stage on these issues
  3. Consider how standards and other tools can help to address the issue of AI in the interim, as we await for legislation to be in force
  4. It is worthwhile to look at ways for government to have regulatory agility on AI
  5. Canada should consider what other international players are doing, and how their approaches could be implemented in the Canadian context

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece called “Regulatory humility”, suggesting that a little more regulatory humility goes a long way to minimize unintended consequences.

I am encouraged by the initial set of take-aways, especially the section calling for regulatory agility in approaching regulation of emerging technology. “The PCET was founded on the principle that oftentimes, regulators and parliaments are left playing catch-up on new technologies. With AI’s capabilities quickly expanding, and as these technologies are rapidly deployed, other mechanisms must be explored by the government to protect Canadians while also encouraging innovation.”

As I have written in the past, “Politicians looking to score points with intervention in the digital marketplace should carefully reflect on whether new laws are actually needed. What problems are we trying to fix?”

PCET says its approach favouring regulatory agility would “ensure that the digital economy is not left behind in Canada, while also recognizing that having regulatory agility could mean that concerns are mitigated more promptly.”

That is a reasonable philosophy. And the multi-partisan working group is a welcome approach.

While on the topic of AI, on October 23 there will be a webinar from the International Telecommunications Society looking at “Achieving Equitable AI Governance: Balancing Innovation and Responsibility”. The one-hour webinar begins at 10am Eastern and registration is free. Frequent readers know that I have been a big fan of the ITS webinars for staying current on emerging policy issues with top subject matter experts from around the globe.

I hope to see you on-line.

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