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Navigating the Future: Malaysia’s Ethical AI Vision

The Evolution and Ethical Challenges of AI

Artificial intelligence has evolved significantly since its conceptual beginnings in the late 1940s with pioneers like Alan Turing and John von Neumann. The landmark year of 1956 saw AI researchers demonstrate a machine’s theoretical capability to solve any problem given unlimited memory, a notion that fundamentally challenged our understanding of machine potential.

By 1965, AI technologies like Shakey the robot and ELIZA were facilitating basic human-machine interactions, setting the stage for today’s

sophisticated virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

As we stand on the brink of what many consider a technological renaissance, the rapid advancements in AI are not just a testament to human ingenuity but also pose profound ethical questions. How do we balance the relentless pursuit of innovation with the imperative to protect human values?

Several countries around the world have taken necessary measures to govern the use of AI, reflecting a growing recognition of AI’s impact on society. Three global regulatory frameworks are being adopted: the right-based model (EU), the state-driven model (China), and the market-based model (US).

The framework implementation can be either a soft approach through guidelines and standards or a hard approach such as legislation. The selection of suitable frameworks and approaches depends on the AI adoption and implementation in the country.

Malaysia’s Response to AI’s Socio-Economic Impact

The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) remains steadfast in navigating these turbulent waters by embedding ethical considerations into the fabric of our AI strategies. In 2022, the unveiling of the National Artificial Intelligence Roadmap (AI-Rmap) for 2021-2025 marked a strategic commitment to ethical AI, aiming to leverage AI’s transformative potential while safeguarding societal values of fairness ans transparency.

But what happens when AI systems, designed to be fair, inadvertently perpetuate bias? How do we rectify such unintended consequences, and who is held accountable?

The roadmap champions Responsible AI practices across three main domains: the community, government agencies, and industry. Yet, as AI permeates sectors like healthcare, transportation, and public safety, the governance of its influence becomes critically important. It’s about more than just adherence to high standards—it’s about actively fostering an understanding and dialogue on how AI technologies should be

responsibly harnessed.

Consider the case of WISE AI, which utilizes AI for customer digital onboarding with full compliance to ethical guidelines. Or Anhsin Technology’s AI chatbot that enhances educational experiences. These examples reflect successful integration of AI, but they also raise important questions: Are we doing enough to ensure that such technologies are accessible to all layers of society? How do we ensure that these innovations benefit

not just the few, but the many?

The development of AI Governance and Ethics (AIGE) is a starting point for the country institutionalising responsible AI. Several initiatives are in the pipeline such as measuring the responsible AI principles, risk and compliance of the AI ethics with existing laws and regulations and developing specific AI guides and ethics for sectoral use.

The AIGE aims to address several potential misuses of AI technology that can have serious ethical and societal repercussions. One prominent concern is the invasion of privacy through surveillance technologies that employ facial recognition, which can be used in ways that infringe on individual rights. Another issue is the deployment of AI in decision-making processes that lack transparency, such as in credit scoring or hiring

practices, where AI can perpetuate biases and lead to discrimination against marginalised groups. Additionally, AI-driven misinformation campaigns pose significant threats to public discourse and democracy. By establishing guidelines for ethical AI use, AIGE seeks to prevent such abuses, ensuring AI technologies are used responsibly and for the benefit of society.

To mitigate these risks, AIGE outlines several strategies that involve both preventative measures and remedial actions. It emphasizes the importance of transparency in AI algorithms to allow for audits and accountability, ensuring that AI decisions can be explained and are free from bias. It also advocates for the inclusion of diverse data sets during the training of AI models to reduce the risk of unintended discrimination.

Moreover, AIGE supports the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of AI systems in operation to swiftly identify and correct any misuse or harmful outcomes. These strategies demonstrate a proactive approach to governance, aiming to uphold ethical standards and protect citizens from potential harms associated with AI technologies.

Toward Responsible Development and Deployment

At MOSTI, supporting the transformative power of AI to shape a sustainable and equitable future is a paramount responsibility. The establishment of the AI Governance and Ethics Task Force is a crucial step toward realizing AI’s full potential in Malaysia, ensuring that ethical considerations are at the forefront to foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

MOSTI has also launched the National Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Committee (NBAIC) to oversee the initiatives under the National Blockchain Technology Roadmap 2021-2025 and the National Artificial Intelligence Technology Roadmap 2021- 2025.

This roadmap is designed to augment jobs, drive national competitiveness, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship for economic prosperity and social well-being. It outlines seven principles of responsible AI: fairness, reliability, safety and control, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, and the pursuit of human benefits and happiness.

Under MOSTI’s guidance, the establishment of the NBAIC and the AI Governance and Ethics Task Force are steps towards crafting a governance framework that addresses these challenges. By involving human oversight in the initial phases of AI implementation, we aim to curate data with accuracy and integrity. This approach is designed to build AI systems that are not only effective but also equitable and just.

A Call to Action for Ethical AI

As we contemplate AI’s role in our future, it’s clear that this is not a journey we can undertake alone. It requires a collective effort from all stakeholders to shape an AI-enhanced world that respects human dignity and promotes societal well-being.

But as we move forward, one question remains: Are we prepared to recalibrate our goals and strategies as we learn from our AI experiences? How do we ensure that AI, a creation of human intellect, remains a servant to humanity, enhancing our lives without compromising our ethics?

Let’s seize this opportunity to mold a future where AI not only powers innovation but also embodies our highest values, leaving a legacy that future generations will look back on with pride.

By Chang Lih Kang, Minister of Science Technology and Innovation (MOSTI)