Balance between technology and ethics: using ChatGPT in a responsible manner

BY Swaran Singh | 03-16-2023
Chinese Social Sciences Today

ChatGPT has been phenomenal lately. It has great transformative potential across all sectors, changing the functioning of many sectors by revolutionizing knowledge-sharing. There is no doubt that new natural language processing tools, including ChatGPT, will mean enormous benefits for people’s daily lives. But, like most other technological revolutions in human history, harnessing AI and related technological advancements like ChatGPT promise to bring about significant impacts and hazards aimed at making life easy and fulfilling. 

Posing threats to international stability

Given that ChatGPT is maintained by OpenAI which is a research organization based in San Francisco (United States) lends it open to questions of its national bias regarding its text generation. The quality of ChatGPT’s output directly depends on its training data, which is collected from various sources, including news articles, books, and other online content. This means that perspectives and materials may exhibit selection bias. Also, those perspectives and materials that have not yet entered cyberspace do not form part of its datasets. Therefore, the content presented by ChatGPT may not be impartial.

For any technical discoveries of the past, there is no doubt that a possibility of misuse will persist. The increasing use of ChatGPT is bound to raise questions about its potential misuse for malicious purposes such as cyber warfare, online misinformation transmission, cyber-attacks, etc. One of the main risks of using AI tools in cyber warfare is that they can be used to create highly convincing deepfakes or to mimic human behavior, making it difficult to detect and attribute attacks to their original source. 

Moreover, AI-powered cyber-attacks can also target critical infrastructure and cause widespread damage and disruption, such as power grids, transportation systems, or financial institutions. This can lead to economic losses, social unrest, and even human casualties. In terms of international relations and political economy, the use of AI tools in online misinformation transmission can exacerbate existing tensions and lead to an ‘escalation spiral’ in which countries engage in a tit-for-tat cycle of retaliation. It may also escalate geopolitical conflicts between nation-states, potentially triggering a full-blown war, which will pose a significant threat to national security and international stability. It can challenge the traditional notions of sovereignty and accountability, as it becomes more difficult to attribute attacks to specific actors or states.

As regards the likelihood of ChatGPT being misused by the US, one cannot theoretically rule out the possibility of the US government or any other entity misusing ChatGPT to spread disinformation or manipulate narratives. ChatGPT can be used for surveillance or any other unlawful acts by anyone including its creators or regulating agencies in the US that may have influence and control over its operations. 

Using technologies in ethical manner 

Throughout history, technology and ethics remain closely intertwined. As technology continues to advance and unfold, ethical considerations become even more important. One way to maximize benefits from new innovations in technology is to prioritize ethical considerations throughout the entire process of conception, design and development. This means considering, from the very onset, the potential impact of technology on society, the environment, and individual rights and freedoms, rather than simply focusing on its benefits in terms of speed, accuracy, efficiency and profits for companies. To ensure a balance between ethnics and technology, all innovations must involve diverse groups of stakeholders in the development process to incorporate a wide range of perspectives from different groups in its evolution. Indeed, technology and ethics breed on each other; social ethics determines human choices about priorities in human innovations while new adaptations of technologies push ethics in further rationalizing its discourse. 

Ultimately, the key to making the best use of technology is to recognize that technology is a tool and that it remains subservient to society. Its outcomes and impact on society also depend on how we choose to use technology. Human ingenuity can always find new ways to use it, but this is not important. What is important is to ensure that technology is used in ways that benefit humanity rather than jeopardize its peace and prosperity. That would depend on the way humans intervene and interface with it. It is also up to human organizations or individuals to make informed decisions about how to use ChatGPT in an ethical manner, while taking into account its potential impacts on society. 

Swaran Singh is a professor of international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India; a visiting professor from University of British Columbia, Canada.

Edited by BAI LE