Barrack Obama on AI: We should not put the genie back in the bottle despite deepfake threat

Former US President Barrack Obama opened up about his views on AI, its regulation, and how to handle the harmful parts while unlocking its potential for the good of mankind.

| Updated on: Nov 08 2023, 09:49 IST
Barrack Obama
Know what Barrack Obama had to say when he found out he was among the most deepfaked people in the world. (Getty Images via AFP)
Barrack Obama
Know what Barrack Obama had to say when he found out he was among the most deepfaked people in the world. (Getty Images via AFP)

Regulation of artificial intelligence has become a major pain point for governments worldwide. The EU passed the AI Act after months of deliberation. Yet, it faces criticism from major corporations, same with the AI executive order taken by the Biden administration, which was said not to do enough to ensure equality. Even the AI Safety Summit in the UK under PM Rishi Sunak was not able to reach a consensus on what exactly is the best way to regulate AI without crippling the enormous potential. Now, former US President Barrack Obama has shared his views as a lawman on how he thinks this tricky problem can be solved.

Obama gave an interview to Decoder, the video podcast by The Verge, where he delved deep into the regulatory side of AI, and why it is a tricky beast to tame. Obama also held the view that policymakers should be careful to not bring rules that are “anti-tech” as it will put the genie back in the bottle and the world will miss out on the opportunity of something that can change lives.

Barrack Obama on AI regulation

Obama was asked about the AI executive order and the new terms that were used in it such as red teaming, watermarking, and AI transparency, as the government was entering new waters. Obama likened the situation to 2015 when an “information revolution” was started by social media platforms, and lives were impacted at every stage.

Obama found that one of the biggest takeaways from that space was that incredible good can come out of it. But, there is a catch. “...We have to be maybe a little more intentional about how our democracies interact with what is primarily being generated out of the private sector. What rules of the road are we setting up, and how can we make sure that we maximize the good and maybe minimize some of the bad,” he said.

He also added that there is a need to bring experts into the foray since they are the only ones who can help policymakers understand the new technology and the actual challenges that exist.

When he was told that he was among the most deepfaked people in the world, Obama said, “What I realized is when I left office, I'd probably been filmed and recorded more than any human in history just because I happened to be the first president when the smartphone came out”. He said that created an enormous pool of visual data on him, and it is just easy to create his deepfakes.

He believes that the issue around deepfakes can only be solved slowly, with iterative changes to the law. He believes that a blanket rule will not work, and laws will have to be created and specified over a period of time, as the ill effects keep surfacing. But this does not mean Obama wants to overregulate AI.

“I don't believe that we should try to put the genie back in the bottle and be anti-tech because of all the enormous potential. But I think we should put some guardrails around some risks that we can anticipate and have enough flexibility that [they] don't destroy innovation but are also guiding and steering this technology in a way that maximizes not just individual company profits, but also the public good,” he said.

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First Published Date: 08 Nov, 09:38 IST