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Obama on AI: The Need for Thoughtful Governance

Former US President Barack Obama recently had an insightful discussion with The Verge’s Nilay Patel about artificial intelligence and its impacts on society. As AI systems grow more powerful, Obama highlighted the need for thoughtful rules and governance to steer this technology for broader public benefit.

Great Potential, But Also Risks

Obama sees the upside of AI in accelerating solutions for challenges like healthcare and climate change. However, the risks like job automation also require foresight. He believes reasonable oversight can maximize AI’s potential while mitigating downsides. The Biden administration’s executive order on AI lays the groundwork for developing this evolving governance framework.

Balancing Free Speech and Content Moderation

Obama acknowledges that tech platforms exercise some content moderation already. However, he cautions against heavy-handed partisan regulation. Freedoms of speech and access to information should be upheld. Still, as with past technologies like radio and TV, some rules have always existed around free expression. The role of government is finding the right balance for the AI era.

Role of Citizens, Industry, Government

Obama stresses that setting policies for AI can’t be done by the tech industry alone. Input from civil society is essential. He sees a role for average citizens, experts in non-profits, and talent within government to shape technology for the common good. International coordination is also key given the global nature of the internet and AI.

Preparing for the Future of Work

The displacement of jobs by AI could necessitate rethinking education, wages, working hours, and social safety nets. Obama says solutions to the economic impacts of AI may require going beyond what industry can directly address. This highlights the need for a broad political discourse on reforms and policies to protect workers.

In summary, Obama advocates pragmatic governance of AI that harnesses its power responsibly. His balanced perspective encompassing civil liberties, job impacts, and international coordination provides a constructive framework for continuing the complex AI policy conversation.

*watch the full interview below

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