NTT: AI risks ‘enormous and irreversible damage’ to society

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In a joint proposal, Japanese telecom giant NTT and newspaper publisher The Yomiuri Shimbun have warned that generative AI poses risks of causing “enormous and irreversible damage” to society if left unchecked.

The companies acknowledge the benefits of generative AI, including user-friendly interfaces and improved productivity from summaries. However, they raise concerns about the lack of human control over the technology.

Among the challenges highlighted are hallucinations, bias, toxicity, copyright infringement through data scraping, and the potential collapse of incentives for providing accurate information.

“If generative AI is allowed to go unchecked, trust in society as a whole may be damaged as people grow distrustful of one another and incentives are lost for guaranteeing authenticity and trustworthiness,” the proposal warns.

“There is a concern that, in the worst-case scenario, democracy and social order could collapse, resulting in wars.”

The companies argue there is a need to balance technological control and legal measures to mitigate the risks posed by generative AI’s uncontrolled development.

Proposed solutions include restoring human autonomy and dignity, legal restrictions on generative AI’s usage in areas like elections and security, and adapting intellectual property protections to the AI era.

NTT and Yomiuri call for the establishment of effective governance frameworks, potentially combining hard laws for high-risk areas with softer, industry-led co-regulation in other domains.

“If we continue to be unable to sufficiently regulate generative AI — or if we at least allow the unconditional application of such technology to elections and security — it could cause enormous and irreversible damage as the effects of the technology will not be controllable in society,” the companies warn.

While acknowledging generative AI’s innovative potential, the proposal emphasises an urgent need to ensure a “healthy space for discussion” and protect democratic order through a combination of legislation, rules, joint industry regulations, and technological safeguards.

NTT and Yomiuri are supported by Keio University’s Cyber Civilization Research Center in their efforts to study the issue and make recommendations for responsible AI development and governance.

You can read the full joint proposal here (PDF)

(Photo by Steve Johnson)

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