Don’t use science fiction to inspire public policy on AI

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At the end of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 character is lowered into the molten metal to prevent his processing chip from falling into the wrong hands. As the Terminator goes under, he gives the iconic thumbs up. 

The Terminator and other fake robots and AIs should stay in that molten pit and out of today’s public policy discussions about AI

Policymakers should not reference or rely on fictional scenarios as reasons to regulate AI. Otherwise, America risks losing its global lead on AI and American citizens could never realize the full benefits of the technology. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” (CBS)

Although the comparisons are inaccurate, there is an appeal.

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Stories and myths are core to who we are as human beings and references to stories to grab and hold attention are a deeply human trait. They create a shared narrative and are a reference point we can all understand. 

Even though they’ve likely used AI, most people have likely not thought about AI except in the context of science fiction, which makes references to stories a tempting communication technique. 

However, that tendency does not make it helpful and it’s likely harmful.

Setting policy based on fictional AI characters and scenarios can result in regulations that are detached from actual conditions, hindering potential positive uses of AI in the real world.

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