With “super” AI on the horizon, Canada needs the law now: A leader in AI

The federal government must move quickly to regulate AI, a top AI leader said, warning that the technology’s current path poses major societal risks.

Yoshua Bengio, dubbed the “godfather” of Amnesty International, told MPs on Monday that Ottawa must create a law immediately, even if the legislation is not perfect.

“Super” intelligence as intelligent as a human could be developed within the next two decades – or even the next few years, said the scientific director at the Milla Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Quebec.

“We are not ready,” Bengio said.

One short-term risk of AI, he said, is using fake videos to spread misinformation. These videos use artificial intelligence to make it appear as if a public figure is saying something they didn’t, or doing something that never happened.

The technology can also be used to interact with people through text messages or dialogue “in a way that can trick a social media user into changing their mind on political matters,” Bengio said.

“There is real concern about artificial intelligence being used in politically oriented ways that run counter to the principles of our democracy.”

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AI systems like Open AI and ChatGPT are receiving an increasing level of scrutiny. (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

A year or two later, the concern remains that more advanced systems could be used for cyberattacks.

AI systems are getting better at programming.

“When these systems become powerful enough to defeat our current cyber defenses and industrial digital infrastructure, we will have a problem,” Bengio said.

“Especially if these systems fall into the wrong hands.”

The draft law proposes to regulate artificial intelligence systems

The House of Commons Industry Committee, where Bengio testified on Monday, is considering a Liberal government bill that would update privacy law and begin regulating some artificial intelligence systems.

The bill as currently drafted would give the government time to develop regulations, but Bengio said some provisions should take effect immediately.

“With the current approach, it will take approximately two years before implementation is possible,” he added.

One of the initial rules he said he wants to implement is a registry that requires systems with a specific level of capability to report to the government.

That would put the responsibility and cost of demonstrating safety on the big tech companies that develop these systems, rather than on taxpayers, Bengio said.

Bill C-27 was first drafted in 2022 to target what are described as “high-impact” AI systems.

Bengio said the government should change the legislation’s definition of “high impact” to include technology that poses threats to national security and society.

This could include any artificial intelligence systems that bad actors can use to design cyberattacks and dangerous weapons, or systems that find ways to self-replicate despite programming instructions to the contrary.

Generative AI systems like ChatGPT, which can generate text, images and videos, came into widespread public use after the bill was first introduced.

The government said it plans to amend the legislation to reflect this.

The Liberals say they aim to require companies to take steps to ensure the content they create can be identified as being created by artificial intelligence.

“It is very important to cover general-purpose AI systems because they are also the systems that can be the most dangerous if misused,” Bengio said.

Catherine Regis, a professor at the University of Montreal, told a committee meeting on Monday that the government needed to act urgently, citing “the recent rapid developments in artificial intelligence that we are all familiar with.”

Speaking in French, she noted that regulating artificial intelligence is a global effort and Canada must determine what to do at the national level if it wants to have a voice.

“Decisions will be made on a global scale and will have an impact on all countries,” she said.

She said that establishing a clear and strong vision at the Canadian level “is one of the basic conditions for playing a credible structural role and an influential role in global governance.”

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(tags for translation) Artificial intelligence

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