Rootstrap Co-Founder on AI Regulation
First of all, Anthony Figueroa wants everyone to know he is a big believer in the power and potential of AI. As co-founder and CTO of outcome-driven software development company Rootstrap, he is both amazed and afraid of AI’s potential based on what he has seen so far.
“I think the biggest danger is that we don’t know the danger,” he said. “We are giving instructions to a computer to solve a problem. We’re exposing the computer to a lot of data, to the entire corpus of data created in our entire history. Will it be way more intelligent than a human being? Will we be able to augment ourselves without a huge problem in the labor market?”
And he’s calling for AI’s immediate regulation.
Figueroa founded Rootstrap in 2011. The company creates software to support applications, mobile apps, and websites for businesses and has worked with Masterclass, Google, and Salesforce, among others. “We create everything that’s needed from the ground up. If you have an idea, we have all the processes to move this idea from a napkin to reality,” he said by way of describing the company.
Like the rest of us, Figueroa is following all the news and developments about Open AI and its product ChatGPT, for better and worse. The bot recently included a professor on a sexual harassment list and cited The Washington Post as its source. The story was never written nor appeared in the paper, and the ChatGPT copy was full of all kinds of fictional details.
The technology also is being blamed for generating at least one false article attributed to the Guardian, forcing the publication to form an internal working group that includes engineers to learn more about how ChatGPT works.
Italy this month banned the use of ChatGPT, citing user privacy concerns, and the move forced ad agency Wunderman Thompson’s office in that country to cease using it.
“I don’t think it makes sense to be honest,” Figueroa said. “It’s more of a political statement.”
New iterations of the technology are already underway, he said. After GPT-4, there will be versions five, six, and seven, and endless other applications.
In March, Elon Musk and other high-profile tech executives published an open letter calling for a six-month pause in development beyond GPT-4. “…recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control,” the letter said.
Figueroa does not agree with stopping the use of ChatGPT, GPT-4, or further developments of any AI technology. First, it’s disruptive to the free flow of business and ideas, and second, the genie is already out of the bottle.
He sees AI’s value in enhancing the abilities of humans in all areas—medicine, engineering, advertising, and countless other fields. Still, Figueroa is emphatic that some type of regulation is needed, if only in the form of education for starters.
“Regulation implies [the formation] of ethical guidelines to anyone who is going to work with some type of AI,” he said. “And if this AI is being used in a way that it shouldn’t be used.”
With an ethics framework in place, Figueroa believes regulators will be able to more effectively explore any instances of misuse in AI. Should the company that created the AI be held responsible? Or the person who used the technology in a certain way? Figueroa compares the misuse of AI to the misuse of the Internet.
“The Internet can be used for child pornography,” he said. “But you go after abusers. You don’t go after people creating the internet infrastructure.”
At a conference earlier this month, FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya pronounced that AI is already regulated under existing civil rights and consumer-protection laws. In the same set of remarks, he called on AI developers to be more transparent about its architecture, hardware, and dataset construction.”
While Figueroa still thinks new regulation is needed, he remains optimistic about humans’ ability to adapt to using the technology.
“We see every single other technological revolution in history had short-term problems, short-term tragedies,” he said. “But you know, in the long run, it was something that changed and created what we are today. And I think it’s at this point, it’s unpredictable but unavoidable. And that’s the key thing.”