The Canadian government is preparing a set of voluntary guidelines aimed at providing guardrails around the development and use of generative AI systems while lawmakers consider formal regulation around the technology. What’s in the guidance?
The Canadian government, under the office of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), has initiated a consultation process for the development of a proposed code of practice aimed at guiding the responsible use and development of generative AI systems. These AI systems, exemplified by models like ChatGPT, Dall-E and Midjourney, have gained significant global attention for their capacity to generate diverse and innovative content based on extensive datasets. While their versatility offers numerous benefits, the potential for misuse and negative impacts necessitates a comprehensive approach to ensure their ethical and safe deployment.
The central premise of the proposed code of practice is to establish a set of voluntary guidelines that private sector companies in Canada are encouraged to follow in anticipation of the enactment of the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA). This legislation, part of the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022, is designed to regulate AI systems, including generative AI systems, ensuring they adhere to responsible standards.
While awaiting AIDA’s formal implementation, the voluntary code is an interim step seeking to address the inherent risks of generative AI and cultivate trust within the sector. It is intended that this code will be “sufficiently robust to ensure that developers, deployers, and operators of generative AI systems are able to avoid harmful impacts, build trust in their systems, and transition smoothly to compliance with Canada’s forthcoming regulatory regime,” the Canadian government has said.
The code emphasizes six core elements that span the development, operation and use of generative AI systems:
- Safety: The code underscores a holistic approach to safety, necessitating a comprehensive assessment of potential risks, including malicious use. Developers and deployers must identify avenues for misuse and take steps to prevent them, while also making the system’s capabilities and limitations transparent to users.
- Fairness and equity: Given the expansive datasets that fuel generative AI models, there is a concern that biases and harmful stereotypes might be perpetuated. Developers are called upon to curate datasets that minimize bias, and deployers and operators must implement measures to detect and mitigate biased output.
- Transparency: Generative AI systems present challenges in terms of transparency, often generating content that is difficult to explain. To counter this, developers should provide methods to identify AI-generated content and offer explanations for the system’s development process and potential risks.
- Human oversight and monitoring: The involvement of human oversight and monitoring is crucial in ensuring the safe development, deployment and use of generative AI systems. Deployers and operators are tasked with providing adequate human oversight, identifying and reporting adverse impacts and implementing routine updates based on findings.
- Validity and robustness: These systems must be tested extensively to ensure they work as intended and are resilient across various contexts, including potential adversarial attacks. Developers and stakeholders are required to employ rigorous testing methods and cybersecurity measures to prevent misuse and security breaches.
- Accountability: The powerful and versatile nature of generative AI systems necessitates robust accountability mechanisms. Developers, deployers and operators are urged to establish multiple lines of defense, including internal and external audits, and define clear roles and responsibilities within their organizations.
In summary, Canada finds itself at a pivotal moment in its pursuit of responsible AI innovation. This journey is marked by the creation of a voluntary guideline that seeks to define the ethical boundaries of generative AI technology. With AI systems like ChatGPT, Dall-E and Midjourney gaining global prominence, there’s an urgent need for comprehensive guidelines to harness their potential while managing associated risks. The Canadian government is taking a consultative approach, recognizing the importance of responsible AI development for sustainable business growth.
Central to this effort is the anticipation of the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), a legislative framework meant to regulate AI systems, including generative AI. While AIDA’s formal implementation is on the horizon as part of the Digital Charter Implementation Act, the voluntary code serves as a proactive interim measure. It aims to build trust within the industry by providing guidance to developers, deployers and operators of generative AI systems to avoid harm and prepare for compliance with Canada’s upcoming regulations.
As the consultation process unfolds, the Canadian government is actively involving stakeholders and AI experts. Input gathered through virtual and hybrid roundtables and expert reviews, facilitated by an AI advisory council, will validate the proposed elements. This collaborative approach ensures that the final code strikes the right balance between innovation and responsible AI development, fostering an environment where AI-driven technologies can thrive while preventing misuse and harm.
Canada’s proactive stance in promoting responsible AI innovation aligns with international initiatives like the G7’s Hiroshima AI Process. By setting an example for other nations and industries to follow, Canada aims to lead in shaping the ethical development and deployment of AI systems. The ongoing consultation period provides a unique opportunity for stakeholders and experts to contribute their insights, collectively shaping the future of AI innovation in Canada and beyond.
As we navigate the ever-changing AI landscape, collaborative efforts like these are crucial to finding the right equilibrium between technological progress and ethical responsibility, ensuring a brighter and more responsible future for AI-driven business growth.