The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technologies, and large language models, like ChatGPT, represents one of the most profound technological disruptions of our time. Automated decision-making systems are reshaping entire industries and ushering in a new era of governance challenges. The study of AI’s impact on governance is still nascent, and scholars are only just beginning to explore the many ways in which structures will need to adapt to effectively address the issues posed by these innovations in tech.
Eric C. Alston has been exploring the intersection of ethics and governance, with an extensive academic background and a focus on economics, law, and political economy. He earned his M.A. in economics from the University of Maryland and a law degree from the University of Chicago and now is a scholar in residence in finance at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Over the years, he has been involved with the Institute for Humane Studies in various capacities, including as a guest scholar, mentor, and seminar panelist. His work on blockchain governance, institutional design, and economics is rooted in a classical liberal approach.
“We’re always on some kind of new frontier. We need to dynamically adjust our rules with positive predictability in every cycle. We are always in need to update some measure of our rules to accommodate these new realities.”Dr. Eric C. Alston
In 2017, Dr. Alston attended a conference titled “Bitcoin on the Moon,” where he saw opportunity for unique conversations and discourse on this new frontier of emerging technologies. While “Bitcoin on the Moon” was not a traditional academic conference, Dr. Alston recognized the potential for expanding his knowledge in a subject matter that was rapidly evolving and was awarded an expense support funding grant from IHS to attend.
“Reliable, industry-level information is challenging to obtain as a third-party observer,” Alston explains. “IHS was generous enough to fund my attendance.” Through the expense support grant, he was able to establish connections with scholars and industry leaders attending the conference, opening the door not only to advancing his research on blockchain and governance but also in presenting his research.
Dr. Alston’s approach explores an understanding of the role of ethics and values in AI governance, and how it is crucial to ensuring that AI is used for good and liberal-based tendencies.
“There are genuine governance dilemmas that AI poses, and we need to address the fundamental question of who should be responsible for governing AI,” Alston says. “The study of AI in the context of law and economics can help address the governance dilemmas posed by it.”
Alston believes interdisciplinary training across these fields can provide valuable insights into these governance dilemmas, and allow for collaborative problem-solving, providing valuable soultions to address its challenges as the tech evolves.
“It’s important to recognize the disruptive potential of these kinds of technologies and to be positioned to respond to those disruptions in an effective way. The careful study of these dilemmas ideally reveals margins tractable to private governance as well as other areas more likely to need public intervention.”Dr. Eric C. Alston
More recently, Alston attended an IHS Research Discussion with fellow tech scholar, Maria Minniti, addressing the “Governance of Emerging Technologies.” Together, they met with rising scholars in the field to discuss freedom-oriented solutions surrounding AI, and foster new, collaborative research opportunities.
Through these types of scholarly connections, Alston’s research continues to provide valuable, classically liberal insights into AI, digital governance, and the need for interdisciplinary approaches in addressing them. It’s through research like Alston’s and other scholars in this emerging field, that we can gain a better understanding of AI governance and its potential impact on both the economy and our society at large.
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