Instead of Asking AI Companies to ‘SLOW DOWN’ We Should Encourage Them to Move Even Faster

An AI Safe Harbor Provision Would Create Guidelines For Development & Safety Without Premature Regulations

Hunter Walk

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The conversation around Artificial Intelligence has started to take on a binary quality, rather prematurely, as if we were debating the two sides of a coin rather than a more complex shape. “Let builders build as is” vs “Regulate.” Ironically, both positions are outputs of acknowledging the incredible early power and promise of the tipping point we’ve reached, but neither incorporate the ambiguity. Fortunately there’s some case law here which might help, and we only have to go back to earlier Internet days and the concept of safe harbor.

a 19th century sailing ship, with robot sailors on deck, docking in a harbor, cyberpunk [DALL-E]

Safe harbor’ is a regulatory framework which provides that certain conduct won’t break a rule so long as specific conditions are met. It’s used to provide clarity in an otherwise complex situation, or to provide the benefit of the doubt to a party so long as they abide by generally acceptable reasonable standards. Perhaps the most well-known example in our industry is the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which provided safe harbor to Internet businesses around copyright infringement performed by their end users so long as several preconditions were met (such as direct financial benefit, knowledge of infringing materials, and so on).

The DMCA allowed for billions of people globally to express themselves online, prompted new business model experiments, and created guardrails for any entrepreneur to stay legal. It’s not perfect, and it can be abused, but it met the reality of the moment in a meaningful way. And it made my career possible, working with user generated content (UGC) at Second Life, AdSense, and YouTube. During my time at the world’s largest video site, I coined the ongoing public metric ‘# hours of video uploaded every minute” to help put YouTube’s growth in perspective and frame for regulators how unfathomable and unreliable it would be to ask human beings to screen 100% of content manually.

Now 25 years later we have a new tidal wave but it’s not UGC, it’s AI and, uh, User Generated Computer Content (UGCC), or something like that. And from my point of view it’s a…

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Hunter Walk

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .