Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gary Gensler, says regulation of AI is essential to prevent a financial crisis.
In an interview with the Financial Times Gensler said that if the status quo remains then it is “nearly unavoidable” that we’ll see a financial crisis caused by AI.
The SEC exercises oversight over financial institutions like banks and securities trading firms. When it fails in its role then the consequences can be dire, as they were during the 2008 economic crisis.
The root cause of that crisis is at the heart of Gensler’s concerns over financial institutions’ use of AI. In the leadup to the 2008 crisis, all the big players were selling sub-prime mortgages based on the commonly held idea that housing prices would keep going up.
When everyone is making the same mistake then a crash is inevitable. Gensler fears that overreliance on a few identical AI tools could lead to a similar situation.
He said, “It’s a hard financial stability issue to address because most of our regulation is about individual institutions, individual banks, individual money market funds, individual brokers; it’s just in the nature of what we do. And this is about a horizontal [matter whereby] many institutions might be relying on the same underlying base model or underlying data aggregator.”
If a number of large institutions all decide to use a model like GPT-4 to analyze the market and make suggestions then an AI hallucination could lead to catastrophic herd behavior.
The SEC isn’t completely against the use of AI as Gensler explained in an address to the National Press Club in July. He said the SEC intended to use AI to detect fraud and money laundering.
In July the SEC proposed a rule that would bar financial institutions from using AI to prioritise their own interests over those of their clients.
Gensler says that while this rule addresses some concerns it doesn’t address the systemic potential for an AI-created financial crisis.
As AI becomes more integrated into our financial institutions, healthcare, and civil services, the consequences of a ‘glitch’ become a lot more serious.