The Artificial Intelligence Research and Production Restriction Act (AIRPRA) is a piece of legislation that places strict rules governing research on true artificial intelligence (AI) in the United Empire of Earth(UEE). Popularly referred to as "the AI ban," it originated after the disappearance of the Artemis, a long-haul colony ship containing thousands of individuals in cryogenic storage. The AI that had been designed to monitor and pilot the ship was blamed, and politicians latched onto the restriction of AI research as a wedge issue to secure votes. Many countries went on to ban artificial intelligence over the next few decades. When the United Nations of Earth (UNE) was created in 2380, its architects included AI restrictions in its earliest laws. The United Planets of Earth (UPE) and the UEE kept AIRPRA in place during their formations, and it remains the law of the land.OVERVIEW
AIRPRA grants the Senate the authority to review and approve or deny all artificial intelligence research, commercial and non commercial. It defines artificial intelligence as "any software or hardware that can convincingly imitate intelligent Human behavior." This broad definition places severe limits on any kind of research that can be done in the AI field, and has effectively banned its production and use throughout the UEE. Specific guidelines include:
• A ban on the reception of government funding for AI research.
• A requirement for Senate approval on privately funded artificial intelligence research.
• If approved, the research must be strictly supervised by the UEE Science and Technology Committee.
• A notice that approval can be revoked at any time.
• A ban on selling any product that displays signs of artificial intelligence.
Any person found in violation of AIRPRA is subject to arrest and may be sentenced to imprisonment for 15 to 20 years. Corporations and research institutions found to be knowingly abetting AI research are subject to a sliding scale of fines and are subject to asset seizure.HISTORY
In 2043, the Eakara Company launched a line of self-driving cars powered by what they claimed to be the first true AI. This differed from earlier products marketed as AI, which were deep generative models that could mimic the qualities of Human intelligence but did not truly possess it. This new AI, Eakara promised, had the intelligence, good judgment, and fast reaction time of the most seasoned Human drivers. The city of Tokyo was an early investor, and purchased a fleet of cars and buses to bulk up their transportation infrastructure in areas too distant from train stations to be easily reached on foot.
In 2044, while driving on a road on a high cliff, one of the Eakara buses made a wrong turn and plummeted over the edge to the sea below, resulting in 21 deaths. Fifteen minutes later, another bus followed, this one with 37 passengers aboard. Authorities contacted Eakara and the company's technicians sent out an emergency command to force all self-driving vehicles in Tokyo and its outskirts to immediately stop without finishing their current trips. Vehicles not engaged in active trips stopped as commanded, but those that were transporting passengers at the time ignored the command continued their trips to completion. Although the vast majority did this without incident, three more buses and 18 cars suffered fatal accidents before all vehicles in the fleet ended their trips and finally stopped moving. 113 people in total died. This became known as the "Lemming Car Incident," and resulted in the dissolution of the Eakara Company. The nation of Japan banned the use of AI in self-driving cars, but similar bans would not be enacted elsewhere until deadly incidents caused by cars from other companies occurred in New York in 2044 and Johannesburg in 2047.
With public distrust in AI high and investors unwilling to back AI-led ventures, researchers began to focus on its application in the sciences rather than day to day life. In 2055, an AI helped to identify a type of bacteria commonly found in the digestive systems of apex carnivores that was utilized to prevent prion diseases. Another AI helped synthesize a cure for rabies. One especially advanced AI was put in charge of calculating the spacecraft trajectories that ensured early missions to Mars were successful. These triumphs helped thaw public opinion and paved the way for AI usage in early terraforming platforms used on Mars.
Designed to complete quick calculations and enact minute adjustments to the atmosphere, the Mars AI was notable for its ability to provide imaginative solutions to complex issues at a speed much higher than that of a Human and with a significantly lower margin of error. At the time, the team in charge of terraforming Mars credited the AI for the ease with which the project appeared to be progressing. However, on 13 September 2125, a miscalculation that was later linked to the AI led to the sudden catastrophic dissipation of the near-complete atmosphere, resulting in the deaths of over 4800 people. This event, deemed the "Mars Tragedy" in the press, again destroyed positive public opinion about AI and halted most ongoing development.
In 2201, AI researcher Dr. Carol Zahir secured funding from private sources and began crafting a new type of artificial intelligence that she would name Janus. By far the most advanced AI of its time, Janus could hold conversations, draw conclusions, and make educated guesses at or beyond the level of a Human. In 2228, Roberts Space Industries (RSI) began construction of the Artemis, a long-haul colony ship that would rely on quantum travel to reach the potentially habitable planetary system codenamed GJ 667Cc. Zahir reached out to the company and proposed that Janus serve as the nerve center of the ship. Given that it would take over 200 years for the ship to reach its destination, RSI agreed. This would allow all the colonists and crew aboard to remain safely in cryogenic sleep without forcing any one of them to grow old and die while they oversaw the journey.
The Artemis launched in 2232 to great fanfare. Soon after it was determined to be safely on course, its launch crew entered cryosleep, leaving Janus solely in charge. Janus transmitted regular reports to Earth until 2237, when any communications from it abruptly ceased. Mission control repeatedly hailed it, but Janus either refused to or could not respond. RSI and multiple governments launched extensive searches, but the Artemis was nowhere to be found. It seemed to have disappeared without a trace.
The outcry that resulted from the loss of over 5000 people was enormous. Although it was not certain that Janus had anything to do with the disappearance of the Artemis, the media vocally blamed it for the catastrophe, citing the Lemming Car Incident and the Mars Tragedy as evidence. Politicians on Earth and Mars latched onto the ban of artificial intelligence as a wedge issue, using it as a springboard to secure votes and take office. As promised in hundreds of campaign speeches, they enacted a wave of bans and halted and confiscated any AI research in their jurisdiction. When the United Nations of Earth eventually formed in 2380, distrust of AI was still high enough that the Artificial Intelligence Research and Production Restriction Act (AIRPRA) became one of the newly-created government's earliest proposed laws. The Senate approved it in a landslide vote.CRITICISM
Because the definition of AI under AIRPRA is so broad, critics have pointed out that it has been used to stifle research and technology that is only tangentially related to AI, such as more efficient autopilots for spacecraft and companies that sell interactive toys. It has also been argued that the secrecy around AI has allowed the government to conduct dangerous research of its own away from the scrutiny of the public, as revealed with the declassification of Project Overlord in 2943.
Imperator Laylani Addision promised to loosen restrictions on AI research during her election campaign, stating that "...the goal of technology should always be to help Humanity, not replace it. AI included," in an interview on the popular spectrum show Clean Shot. Her Innovation Initiative, launched soon after she took office in 2951, allows the issuance of special waivers to research institutions pursuing the study of AI. Any institution that receives this waiver is eligible for a limited number of government grants, and must make all advancements resulting from their research both public and free for all to use.