AI ‘Bill of Rights’ by Canadian Sci-Fi Author Takes Aim At Tech Giants
Sci-Fi author Tim Boucher proposes a visionary AI Bill of Rights, aiming to redefine the relationship between tech companies, AI, and people everywhere.
(CANADA — 12 July 2023) — For over a century, science fiction has fueled the imaginations of countless scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, inspiring the creation of many of the technological marvels we see today. Now, Tim Boucher, a renowned Canadian sci-fi author with a rich background in online trust & safety, policy, and product design, is harnessing this power of storytelling to guide us into an era of AI governance that harmonizes with humanity’s best interests. Think of it as an AI Bill of Rights, or a Magna Carta for users of AI services, which aims to rein in the power of the tech companies.
Boucher, known for using AI to write and illustrate more than 100 mini-novels in a year, has crafted an unprecedented “Digital Terms of Service for AI Providers In Canada” (or the AI ToS, for short). The inspiration, he says, comes directly from his own AI-assisted science fiction writing, and aims to serve as a hopeful antidote for the more dystopian aspects of his narratives.
This AI Terms of Service, a fusion of utopian sci-fi idealism and down to earth policy advice, proposes a roadmap for AI governance in Canada, augmenting the country’s current efforts in passing AI legislation such as the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA). The ToS provides practical guidance for any AI company seeking to access Canada’s market, or “platform,” as he calls it. To ensure compliance, Boucher suggests a public ranking system reflecting each company’s adherence to the ToS, empowering Canadians to make informed decisions about the AI services they use, and a way to get help if they experience harms caused by AI systems. In worst case scenarios, he says, it would give Canadians a lever to discuss “deplatforming” companies with the worst record of violations.
Envisioning a future where public ownership and direct democratic control of AI technologies are the norm, Boucher’s radical proposal reflects themes from his AI-assisted short fiction book “Occupy AI,” which uses photo-realistic images and AI-generated news articles to explore what happens when a group of protesters occupies the headquarters of a fictional AI company. He argues that the future of AI should not be solely in the hands of for-profit companies and emphasizes the need for viable free and public alternatives.
“In the face of immense technological changes, our task is not to create conditions that are convenient or cheap for AI companies to operate within,” said Boucher. “Rather, we must protect and uplift the human spirit by demanding that AI providers operate at a higher level of responsibility and sensitivity. If they want to innovate, they can do it within the parameters that we set.”
While Canada’s nascent Digital Charter aims to uphold the online rights of Canadians, Boucher’s AI ToS presents a one-of-a-kind comprehensive mechanism to hold companies accountable. The document details the features companies must develop to genuinely protect Canadians’ rights and enable them to flourish in a digital age.
Boucher acknowledges that his notion of direct democratic control over AI technologies is politically provocative and perhaps unattainable in the near term. However, he argues that the act of imagining and striving towards an ideal future is crucial in driving innovation and change. He adds, “It’s clear that AI technology is becoming ascendent, and is likely to absorb and integrate with other systems across the globe, becoming the most important and powerful technology of our time.” So it’s exactly the right moment, he says — and perhaps the last moment, before AI providers become too big — to chart another course forward towards a different future than the status quo, one where people, not profits are the focus.
“While the document is drafted in the Canadian context, the intent is universal,” Boucher said. “It’s about flipping the script and giving users anywhere the power to set the terms. If companies want to integrate their AI products into every aspect of our lives, they need to respect our personal autonomy and our choices. And not just through empty promises in a blog post, but by offering a guaranteed set of product features that actively protect our rights. A standard protocols, if you will. This is a fundamental shift, but a necessary one. It’s a move away from singular control by AI companies, towards collaboration, and putting decision-making directly into the hands of users and those impacted by AI systems.”
As we venture into an era of immense technological disruption, sci fi visionaries like Tim Boucher invite us to not just passively adapt to change but to play an active role in shaping it using the power of our imaginations.
The full AI Terms of Service document can be accessed here.
About Lost Books, AI Publisher
Tim Boucher is a Canadian science fiction author, AI artist, futurist, and provocateur known for his use of AI to compose and illustrate over 100+ short books. He has nearly a decade of professional experience working in online trust & safety, policy, and product design. His work has garnered international news coverage from around the globe.