A personal development speaker I often listen to delivers a set of talks on developing personal guardrails designed to prevent us from going off the deep end emotionally and relationally. Similarly as we explore this new age of artificial intelligence (AI) people are recognizing that we could use a set of guardrails to help guide our collective decisions using this new technology.

Collective guardrails generally include social norms, laws, and rules. Do we have any existing guardrails that will help us navigate AI? Where might they come from? What guardrails might work? Which might fall short?

Guardrails: Guiding Human Decisions in the Age of AI by Urs Gasser and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger came out recently. I promised to read and review it a couple of months ago. It got buried amongst other reading, plus it is not one of those “skim through” business books. This book has real meat. Based on the latest insights from the cognitive sciences, economics, and public policy, Guardrails offers a novel approach to shaping decisions by embracing human agency in its social context.

The authors with meticulous research lead us through technology approaches and social approaches through laws and regulations revealing the benefits but also the shortcomings of each.

From the press release: In this visionary book, Urs Gasser and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger show how the quick embrace of technological solutions can lead to results we don’t always want and explain how society itself can provide guardrails more suited to the digital age, ones that empower individual choice while accounting for the social good, encourage flexibility in the face of changing circumstances, and ultimately help us to make better decisions as we tackle the most daunting problems of our times, such as global injustice and climate change.

They conclude, “We hope that our readers—and everyone in governments, companies, and communities tasked with confronting some of humanity’s biggest challenges—will embrace this timely opportunity to think about and experiment with smarter guardrails to work toward better, fairer, and more sustainable futures.”

Urs Gasser is professor of public policy, governance, and innovative technology and dean of the School of Social Sciences and Technology at the Technical University of Munich. His books include (with John Palfrey) Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is professor of internet governance and regulation at the University of Oxford. His books include Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (Princeton).

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