As AI systems continue to increase in capabilities and become more widespread, establishing proper governance norms to ensure their safe, fair, and socially beneficial development and application is of critical importance. MIT, as a leading AI research institution, has been at the forefront of efforts to address this challenge through initiatives like the Internet Policy Research Initiative and AI Safety Through Coordination groups. The task of defining effective and pragmatic governance frameworks poses significant difficulties that MIT researchers actively work to overcome.
One major challenge is the rapid pace of AI progress itself. As new techniques like self-supervised learning, deep reinforcement learning, model scaling and transfer learning drive increasingly powerful AI, it becomes harder for governance to keep pace. By the time norms are established, new capabilities with unforeseen societal impacts may emerge. This challenge is amplified by a diverse AI ecosystem spanning academia, startups, large companies, and many countries with varying priorities and attitudes towards oversight. Norm development needs to balance between timely guidance and deep consensus building across stakeholders.
There is also a lack of empirical evidence around many risks and harms that potential governance aims to mitigate against. While hypothetical concerns around issues like bias, unemployment effects, and loss of control can be raised, quantifying their likelihood and impacts is difficult given the nascency of advanced AI applications. This evidence gap complicates prioritizing governance focus areas and proposing proportionate policy measures, necessitating continuous research to build understanding over time.
Defining effective yet practical norms gets increasingly complex as AI systems expand beyond narrow technical domains into diverse application areas like healthcare, transportation, education and beyond. Considerations around technical limitations, economic constraints, cultural nuances and legal frameworks vary widely across domains. One-size-fits-all regulation may stymie innovation and benefits. At the same time, uncoordinated sectoral approaches run the risk of inconsistencies and spillovers. Navigating these issues is quite challenging.
Technical challenges in areas like verifying and certifying AI system properties, assessing long-term impacts, and ensuring functionality and safety under distributional shifts also constrain governance. Without solutions to hard problems of trustworthy AI, prescribed norms may remain aspirational rather than enforceable or auditable in practice. Progress on governance thus depends on parallel progress in core AI safety research areas.
A further difficulty lies in the value alignment problem between AI systems optimized for narrow tasks, and open-ended human values of fairness, honesty and welfare that effective governance aims to instill. Norms may regulate developer behavior, but their efficacy depends on principled and scalable solutions to value specification, multi-objective optimization, and ensuring value preservation under self-modification – open research areas with no consensus views yet.
Stakeholder alignment challenges are also large. Eliciting inputs from communities impacted by AI, and striking appropriate balances between consumer protection versus innovation, or between commercial confidentiality needs and public transparency in oversight are complex political exercises involving diverse viewpoints. This is made harder when some stakeholders are incentivized by maximizing near-term profits rather than long-term societal well-being.
Surmounting these difficulties requires sustained efforts in building insight through interdisciplinary collaborations, open inquiry including public deliberations, sensitive yet principled piloting of new mechanisms, leadership in fostering international coordination, and persistent advocacy for adaptive governance frameworks that safeguard human and societal welfare in step with AI’s rapid evolution. While progress remains incremental, MIT researchers are determinedly overcoming such considerable challenges through their diligent work of establishing governance norms to help ensure AI’s safe and responsible development.