It is no secret that artificial intelligence (“AI”) is set to become the next wave in technological innovation. AI is expected to create as many as 133 million new jobs by 2022 and boost the global economy by $13 trillion by 2030. However, successful machine learning depends on large and broad data sets, including personal information, and the extraordinary pace of development is forcing nations to reevaluate their laws in order to compete within the industry.
For example, AI has assumed a key role in Beijing’s Made in China 2025 master plan, which aims to take on the Western giants in cutting-edge technologies. China has a distinctive advantage in AI: The sheer size of its population, dynamic online commerce, and heavy government backing create the perfect laboratory for research and development. See e.g., Alibaba Cloud’s ET City Brain. At the same time, China has sought to raise consumer data protection standards. In May 2018, for example, China introduced its National Standards on Information Security Technology–Personal Information Security Specification GB/T 35273-2017, a GDPR-like privacy standard that provides guidance on China’s data protection requirements, including China’s Cybersecurity Law.
The dichotomy of accelerating and policing AI is not unique to China. In February 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that calls for not only greater investment in AI but also commensurate governance. In response, some have raised concerns that over-regulation will hamper the use and development of AI and thereby reduce the U.S.’s prospects of becoming a global decision maker in the industry.
The contradiction over limiting use of consumer personal information while encouraging AI research and development has led to widespread uncertainty, as acknowledged by the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”). In its Forum Network series on Digitalization, the OECD found an emerging consensus on two fronts– first, that AI policy is an urgent concern because the technology is moving so fast, and second, the universal reach of AI and related technologies requires a global dialogue and collaboration across borders in order to avoid a patchwork of inconsistent and country-specific approaches.