This is an open letter to Caricom leaders.
Dear Caricom Leaders,
As you convene for the upcoming session to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and envision the next 50 years, I extend my congratulations to you, the leaders, and the entire movement for your resilience in the face of numerous challenges.
Caricom was established amidst two significant existential threats:
Firstly, the then imminent entry of Britain into the European Economic Community (EEC) posed dire implications for the Commonwealth preferences, under which Caribbean Commonwealth countries and territories traded with Britain;
Secondly, the then, quadrupling of crude oil prices by OPEC in May 1973, known as the “4th oil shock”, added to frightening mounting concerns. However, the Caribbean states, particularly the first four independent ones (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyana) demonstrated determination by consulting and collaborating to confront these challenges.
As I write this and as a deliberately conscientious Caribbean citizen, I am not unaware of the commendable and mature hydrocarbon initiatives being pursued in emerging collaboration by our own petro-states — Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana in our region’s south.
Furthermore, I commend the leadership of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for the inspiring “Fresh Bread Being Baked For All At Windy Hill (Mount Lily)” under the enlightened chairmanship of St Kitts and Nevis in our region’s east.
This is so breathtaking and heart-warming!
However, today, I draw your attention to two arguably existential threats that our region now faces:
The first is the hasty adoption of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) for nuclear energy generation. The second is the unregulated advancement of global Artificial Intelligence (AI), let alone AGI, the more generalized eventual autonomous machine target.
It is imperative that we collectively and urgently address these looming threats. Given the hazards associated with both nuclear energy and AI, it is crucial to include them in Caricom’s discussions to ensure comprehensive, timely decision-making.
While it is important to acknowledge the valid concerns about “job losses in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector” due to rapidly emerging AI technology, Caricom leaders must lift up their eyes alertly and look beyond this aspect.
AI has the potential to revolutionize various sectors, including healthcare, education, agriculture, agro-processing, and environmental management. Encouraging all our citizens, especially technical individuals and institutions, to embrace AI technologies while implementing policies and programmes to uphold high ethical standards and practices will be crucial.
Furthermore, it is essential to broaden the scope of the AI discussion to encompass its transformative capabilities and the opportunities it presents for equitable development. By leveraging AI technologies, Caricom member states can bridge the digital divide, empower marginalized communities, and promote inclusive sustainable economic growth. AI can play a pivotal role in narrowing educational disparities, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and improving access to essential services across the region.
Regarding SMRs, decision-makers must recognize that this technology is still in the development phase and not yet in commercial use. As a result, it lacks a researched history that can inform decision-making. Therefore, careful monitoring is necessary. The use of nuclear technology carries potential internal (within the country) and external (across countries) impacts. Given the small size of Caricom states, even small-scale nuclear plants require an exclusion zone approximately half the size of Barbados (half of 166 square miles). This could pose a challenge in many states and will require extensive discussion. Geographical proximity and unruly wind regimes among Caricom countries suggest the need for region-wide discussions and policies.
Tourism is a vital economic sector for most Caricom member states, and promoting the Caribbean as a nuclear-free zone has been a key aspect of regional tourism promotion. Therefore, any decisions made regarding nuclear energy or AI should incorporate stringent safety protocols, comprehensive emergency management strategies, and risk mitigation plans. Establishing regulatory frameworks and ethical guidelines to govern the development, deployment, and use of AI technologies is also crucial. These measures will ensure privacy protection, prevent bias, and ensure transparency.
In conclusion, I urge the conference to publicly acknowledge the gravity of the existential threats posed by nuclear energy and unregulated AI. It is vital to establish arrangements that mitigate potential risks and maximize potential benefits.
Thank you for your attention and dedication to the well-being of the region.
Dennis A. Minott, PhD Physicist and Energy Specialist