Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) recently released its Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Responsible Development and Management of Advanced Generative AI Systems (Voluntary Code) on September 27, 2023. This article explains the main features of the Voluntary Code.
Given the urgency that is needed to deal with advanced AI systems that are capable of generating content (for example, ChatGPT, DALL·E 2, and Midjourney), ISED released the Voluntary Code. It is important to keep in mind that, while there is an awesome potential with this technology to create benefits for humanity, there is also clear risk that must be addressed. For instance, the Voluntary Code notes that there could be risks to health and safety, amplified bias, and other risks that have broader societal impacts, especially when used by malicious actors. Some troubling risks involve generation of realistic images and video, impersonation of the voices of real people, and deception that is at a scale that can damage important institutions, including democratic, and criminal justice systems.
There is no question that we must address and mitigate these risks and consider the particular contexts in which these technologies are to be operating. To that end, some organizations have become signatories to the Voluntary Code. The plan is to have organizations sign on to the Voluntary Code in advance any binding regulation such as the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) found in Bill C-27. I wrote about proposed provisions in AIDA that are in Bill C-27 here. Currently, the progress of the bill has been slow—it is in the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology; to date, there have been two Committee meetings.
Furthermore, it is important to note the following statement that is in the Voluntary Code:
“While the framework outlined here is specific to advanced generative AI systems, many of the measures are broadly applicable to a range of high-impact AI systems and can be readily adapted by firms working across Canada’s AI ecosystem.”
Additionally, the Voluntary Code does not aim to change the obligations that organizations have under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
Simply put, by committing to the Voluntary Code, developers and managers of advanced generative systems commit to working to achieve the following outcomes:
- Accountability: Firms understand their role with regard to the systems they develop or manage, put in place appropriate risk management systems, and share information with other firms as needed to avoid gaps.
- Safety: Systems are subject to risk assessments, and mitigations needed to ensure safe operation are put in place prior to deployment.
- Fairness and Equity: Potential impacts with regard to fairness and equity are assessed and addressed at different phases of development and deployment of the systems.
- Transparency: Sufficient information is published to allow consumers to make informed decisions and for experts to evaluate whether risks have been adequately addressed.
- Human Oversight and Monitoring: System use is monitored after deployment, and updates are implemented as needed to address any risks that materialize.
- Validity and Robustness: Systems operate as intended, are secure against cyber attacks, and their behaviour in response to the range of tasks or situations to which they are likely to be exposed is understood.
What’s more, signatories of the Voluntary Code are expected to commit to support the ongoing development of a robust, responsible AI ecosystem in Canada. This includes the following:
- Contributing to the development and application of standards
- Sharing information and best practices with other members of the AI ecosystem
- Collaborating with researchers working to advance responsible AI
- Collaborating with other actors, including governments, to support public awareness and education on AI, and
- Developing and deploying AI systems in a manner that will drive inclusive and sustainable growth in Canada, including by prioritizing human rights, accessibility and environmental sustainability, and harnessing the potential of AI to address the most pressing global challenges that we face
The Voluntary Code also provides a chart of measures to be undertaken pursuant to the Voluntary Code in attempt to provide some clarity. It sets out specific measures to take for all advanced generative systems and advanced generative systems available for public use. This chart is organized by each of the above-mentioned principles and indicates whether developers or managers are responsible for taking certain measures.
For instance, let us take the principle of Fairness and Equity. One of the measures that need to be taken is to assess and curate datasets used for training in order to manage data quality and potential biases. In this example, developers are responsible for taking these measures under this principle when it comes to all advanced generative systems and advanced generative systems available for public use.
Lastly, the names of the signatories (so far) are listed at the end of the Voluntary Code.
During the news release that took place on September 27, 2023, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of ISED, stated the following:
“Advances in AI have captured the world’s attention with the immense opportunities they present. Canada is a global AI leader, among the top countries in the world, and Canadians have created many of the world’s top AI innovations. At the same time, Canada takes the potential risks of AI seriously. The government is committed to ensuring Canadians can trust AI systems used across the economy, which in turn will accelerate AI adoption. Through our Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Responsible Development and Management of Advanced Generative AI Systems, leading Canadian companies will adopt responsible guardrails for advanced generative AI systems in order to build safety and trust as the technology spreads. We will continue to ensure Canada’s AI policies are fit for purpose in a fast-changing world.”
Please note that any views expressed in this article are solely the views of the author.
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