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Uncommon Decency

Mar 21, 2024

“Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants”. Samuel Butler wrote those words in the mid-19th century in his essay Darwin Among the Machines (1863). The somewhat satirical essay calls for the total destruction of all machines to save humanity from inevitable subservience to them.

Starting with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, science fiction writing often fixes upon the fear that machines will surpass us, replace us, and even enslave us. Terminator, Mass Effect, The Matrix, and Blade Runner all deal with this existential fear. Now that AI has arrived in a mass use format through ChatGPT and Gemini, lawmakers around the globe are rushing to regulate this technology to prevent abuse while still enabling innovation. The EU has jumped out ahead in trying to regulate artificial intelligence and is hoping that its regulatory power will help set global standards for AI use; but will it?

To discuss this complex and serious topic, we invited Ian Bremmer, Founder and President of the Eurasia Group, and Anu Bradford Professor of Law at Columbia University and author of The Brussels Effect (2020), and Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology (2023).

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