José María Lassalle (Santander, 1966) was a ‘rara avis’ of Spanish politics. During his years as a PP deputy and as Secretary of State in the governments of Mariano Rajoy, he tried to escape the noise of day-to-day life to focus on thinking about the challenges facing Spain and, singularly, the digital challenge. He now does so as a consultant and professor of Philosophy of Law at ICADE, where he reflects on the advancement of technologies and artificial intelligence.
–Does the Almendralejo case show that artificial intelligence is ahead of society?
–The feeling is that society is missing artificial intelligence, but democracy is also missing the ability to identify the general interest of minors or anyone who may be harmed by it. It seems that artificial intelligence is developed and deployed without prior control. For a long time the need to regulate it has been insisted upon, but there has been resistance to doing so, and now we face the consequences of not having undertaken this regulation.
–Where do the pressures not to regulate artificial intelligence come from?
–It is the reflection of a certain mentality that advocates not opening doors to the field of technological progress and scientific advances, and behind that idea are large companies and corporations. Regulation for regulation’s sake is not good, but it is good when it serves the general interest.
–How should the debate on artificial intelligence be approached if those affected are minors?
–As with other crimes, criminal liability cannot be claimed, but it is essential to raise awareness in society through pedagogy and citizenship education. In schools, it is necessary to teach children and young people what the correct uses of technology are and the consequences of incorrect use. Therefore, it is essential to face this challenge not only with technical training, but also with ethical training that identifies good and evil.
–Could a regulation of artificial intelligence or social networks similar to that of tobacco be considered, so that minors do not have access to them?
–As for applications and services, everything depends on the use to which they are used. The use of ChatGPT to create a text is not the same as to develop a lethal weapon. Artificial intelligence must be regulated in a strict and ambitious manner, responding to the general interest based on the social segments or interests that are at stake. And all this requires great legislative interest.
–Are adults or teachers prepared to educate young people in this field?
–An effort is required from adults, the educational community and society as a whole because managing technology and its disruptive development, which will entail a transformation of our societies towards an artificial civilization, will entail an exercise of collective responsibility, which Let us develop a joint intelligence based on social collaboration that allows us to live up to the enormous power that we are accumulating as a society around our technological transformation. Technology is not neutral, but rather it deploys a power in itself that changes us as human beings, there is something Faustian about it, and that is why we need a pedagogical development that affects the entire society, the parents, the educational community. We are advancing in a field similar to what nuclear energy was after the Second World War or the development of genetics in the 90s or the first 2000s, which implied social awareness about the limits that should be established around these powers, which have the ability to cause the annihilation of human beings.
–But is a society as polarized as the current one prepared to rethink the future of civilization?
–We have no other choice. If not, this profound transformation will take us ahead. To do this, we must get out of sterile political debates, more typical of the partisan interest of political formations and governments than of the general interest. We risk the possibility not only of being replaced, but of being canceled as a species. It is our deepest challenge, and it is not something dystopian, it is reality.
–The European Parliament is preparing a regulation on artificial intelligence. What do you think?
–In view of events such as the Hollywood screenwriters’ strike or the Almendralejo event, we need a more ambitious project than the current approach of the European Parliament, which has focused on identifying the potential risks of artificial intelligence and its possible responses, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The design of this regulation was proposed based on a document prepared by experts in 2017, but it has been overwhelmed by the reality of recent years.
–What message can be conveyed to a citizen who fears the emergence of artificial intelligence?
–It is true that artificial intelligence is projecting the risk of substitution, not only in the professional field, but even in the decisions that have accompanied the exercise of human responsibility. In the future, it is likely that machines powered by artificial intelligence will support what has traditionally been human work, and what we will have to do is manage the immense complexity of an artificial civilization. Man has to learn to be wise and must demand from politics the ability to think about the future.
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