(Ottawa) Representatives of big tech companies say a Liberal government bill that would begin regulating some artificial intelligence (AI) systems is too vague.
Amazon and Microsoft executives told MPs at a meeting of the House of Commons industry committee on Wednesday that Bill C-27 does not sufficiently differentiate between AI systems high and low risk.
Businesses argue that complying with the law as it is currently written would be expensive.
Nicole Foster, director of global artificial intelligence and Canadian public policy at Amazon, argued that using the same approach for all applications is “highly impractical and could inadvertently stifle innovation.”
The use of AI by a peace officer is considered high impact in all cases, she noted, even when an officer uses autocorrect to fill out a ticket for a Code violation of the road.
“Laws and regulations must clearly differentiate high-risk applications from those that pose little or no risk. This is a fundamental principle that we must respect, she insisted. We must be very careful about imposing regulatory burdens on low-risk AI applications that can potentially bring much-needed productivity gains to Canadian businesses, large and small. »
Microsoft gave an example of how the law does not seem to distinguish the level of risk introduced by certain AI systems. An AI system used to approve a person’s mortgage and manage sensitive details about their finances would be considered to have the same risk as one used to optimize package delivery routes using public data.
The Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, provided some information on the amendments that the government intends to make to the bill to ensure that it is up to date.
Despite these additional details, businesses said the definitions in the bill still remained too ambiguous.
Amanda Craig, senior director of public policy at Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI, warned that not differentiating between the two would “spread the time, money, talent and resources of Canadian companies—and could mean that limited resources are not sufficiently focused on the highest risks.”
Bill C-27 was introduced in 2022 and aims to target what is described as “high impact” AI systems, but the government has announced it will amend the bill to also introduce new rules for generative artificial intelligence, such as “ChatGPT”.
The urgency to act
Montreal professor Yoshua Bengio, nicknamed one of the “godfathers of AI,” told a Commons committee on Monday that Ottawa should immediately put in place a law, even if imperfect.
The scientific director of Mila, the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence, affirms that a “superhuman” machine, as intelligent as a human being, could be developed within twenty years, or even a few years.
Advanced systems could eventually be used for cyberattacks, he added, and the law must anticipate this risk.
AI already poses risks.
Videos altered by AI and hyperfaking, generated to make it appear as if a real person is doing or saying something they never did, can be used to spread disinformation, Yoshua Bengio said .