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Australia moves closer to mandatory artificial intelligence restrictions

Australia moves closer to mandatory artificial intelligence restrictions
Lights illuminate power connector cables inside a 'mining rig' computer, used to mine cryptocurrency, in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday, 31 January 2018. (Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

The Australian government has named a panel of legal and scientific experts to advise on potential guardrails for the research, development and use of artificial intelligence, its latest step toward mandatory regulation of the rapidly evolving technology.

Industry Minister Ed Husic announced the 12 members of the government’s new Artificial Intelligence Expert Group on Wednesday, including Bronwyn Fox, chief scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s premier research institution.

Husic said the group had been formed to advise the government on transparency, testing and accountability for AI, including “options for AI guardrails in high-risk settings”.

“We want to get the balance right, and also allow low risk AI to flourish unimpeded,” he said.

AI development has been a growing area of concern for governments around the world, with the technology accelerating faster than many had anticipated. Speaking alongside Husic, the CSIRO’s Fox said she hadn’t expected regulation to be needed so quickly.

“The rate of change and the rate of advancement in artificial intelligence is bringing us incredible opportunities for amazing benefits both nationally and internationally,” she said. “But we need to make sure that we are innovating responsibly.”

The announcement comes after Husic said in mid-January that Australia would pursue two separate tracks to AI regulation — voluntary guidelines for low-risk usage and mandatory restrictions for higher-risk areas.

However, the government is yet to announce a timeline for the regulations, with Husic saying it’s a complex task to define what constitutes high-risk AI. The panel has been formed to help authorities determine that, he said.

But pressure is mounting on the government to get its regulations into place. Danielle Wood, the chair of the nation’s Productivity Commission, warned on Monday that Australia was moving too slowly to take advantage of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies.

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