The rapidly evolving status of artificial intelligence (AI) holds out promise and peril for the world.  Dean Ball, the senior program manager at the Hoover Institution’s State and Local Governance Initiative who is also a member of the board of directors of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), uses Microsoft’s recent introduction of the Bing Image Creator to make a point.

This “image-generation tool” offers consumers the possibility “to understand complex user requests much more richly than was possible before.”  In “‘Safety’ Is Not the Best Standard for Regulating Artificial Intelligence” in the October 15th of the online issue of National Review, Mr. Ball has reservations about Microsoft’s efforts to guarantee their tool is not used for depraved or nefarious purposes.  Many officials have called for regulation of AI. In a battle between regulators and individual users of this and other systems in content moderation, however, he comes down on the side of the latter.

“[I]t will become harder to make systems ‘safe,’ Mr. Ball observes, “according to the term’s broad definition encouraged by the media, academia, and many AI firms. The more precisely the AI can be controlled, the more precisely clever users will be able to find ways around content-moderation rules designed to prevent the production of content that offends liberal sensibilities.” An “overbroad” call for regulatory agencies to clamp down on AI will stifle the creative energies of individual users.

“How we contend with these newfound tools, whether and to what extent we trust them, and how we incorporate them into our society will determine,” he says, “whether they will disempower or enrich humanity. Being insulated from even the possibility of offensive content on the internet is quite different from being protected against, say, AI-created novel pathogens; speech is not a form of violence, but AI-powered drones may well be. It is time to set aside the petty squabbles of the past decade and address the serious legal, public-policy, moral, and philosophical questions that the prospect of highly capable AI has prompted.”