On Wednesday, June 21, Senator Chuck Schumer announced a proposal to develop legislation to both regulate and promote work in artificial intelligence. The announcement was made during his speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
Senator Schumer outlined the benefits of AI, such as fighting disease, tackling hunger, ensuring peace, and making our lives easier. However, he also recognized some of the risks associated with AI, such as job displacement, misinformation, election interference, and risky automation – such as in military weapons and systems e.g., the fictional WOPR computer from the 1983 movie WarGames.
Recognizing that the U.S. now has no choice but to deal with AI, Senator Schumer’s proposal is designed to improve U.S. competitiveness while ensuring protections and has two components: (1) the SAFE Innovation Framework; and (2) a legislative process that partners with private industry.
SAFE Innovation Framework
The SAFE Innovation Framework is designed to encourage U.S. innovation in AI while still providing some regulatory boundaries to protect national security, democracy, and the general public. The SAFE Innovation Framework therefore includes the following components:
- Security. Necessary to protect national security for the U.S. and economic security for residents whose jobs may be displaced by automation.
- Accountability. The providers of AI systems must deploy these systems in a transparent and responsible way. They must remain responsible for violations of the protections ultimately put in place by promoting misinformation, violating intellectual property rights, or when the AI is biased.
- Foundations. AI algorithms and products must be developed in a way that promotes America’s foundations such as justice, freedom, and civil rights.
- Explainability. The providers of AI systems must provide appropriate disclosures that inform the public about the system, the data it uses, and its contents.
- Innovation. The overall guiding principle for any regulations or policy regarding AI should be to encourage, not quash, innovation so that the U.S. becomes and remains the global leader in this technology.
In addition to the overall SAFE Innovation Framework proposed, Senator Schumer proposed a new legislative process to achieve these objectives. He proposed holding a number of “AI Insight Forums,” possibly beginning as early as September. While he recognized that such forums cannot replace the normal congressional process through committee hearings and the like, these forums would be somewhat of a public-private partnership with input from the top minds in AI, including industry leaders, interest groups, developers, and other interested parties. Senator Schumer suggested that these forums would be necessary because Congress lacks the technical expertise in these areas and would be necessary to help the Congress develop the “right” policies.
While the EU and other countries have taken the lead on regulating AI, Senator Schumer suggested that those proposed regulations have been adopted too quickly to properly address this new technology. However, he also recognizes that any undertaking to regulate AI is “exceedingly ambitious” and that success is not guaranteed. He also recognized that legislation cannot solve all of the problems with the development and deployment of AI, but that his proposal is an important first step. In his speech he emphasized that any regulations must balance the need for innovation, ensuring that smaller players and startups are still able to compete in the market, all while protecting the public from harm.
Impact to Business
Overall, Senator Schumer’s proposal, if adopted, represents an important stop in regulating the use of AI while promoting innovation. It will be interesting to see how other members of Congress and stakeholders in AI technology react to the proposal and participate in the proposed AI Insight Forums to provide feedback to lawmakers. However, the devil is ultimately in the details – the proposal only sets out a framework for creating such legislation, and there is no proposed regulation as of yet. As Senator Schumer recognized, Congress often doesn’t have the technical expertise to properly regulate technology, especially one as complex and transformative as AI. AI technologists and businesses should stay apprised of developments and consider participating in the discussions to help guide Congress to increase the likelihood of them creating the “right policies.”