Congress’ attempt at AI legislation
The 116th Congress has three bills or resolutions of note sitting in a number of committees that attempt to address the use of artificial intelligence in American society. H.Res. 153 is intended to support the development of guidelines for the ethical development of artificial intelligence.
Meanwhile, HR 2202 seeks to establish a coordinated Federal initiative to accelerate artificial intelligence research and development of the economic and national security of the United States, while H.R. 827 is concerned about training and retraining workers facing employment disruption by artificial intelligence.
The bills and resolution are more exploratory versus regulatory in nature. They don’t expressly get at any behavior that needs to be regulated. The nascent characteristic of artificial intelligence development along with government’s inability to keep regulation at the same pace as technology development may be in part the reason for the “let’s see what we have here” stance of early regulation. In other words, Congress may just be getting a feel for what AI is while taking care not to interfere with the innovation needed to further develop the technology.
On the other hand, these bills could help Congress get ahead of the issue of labor disruption. Workers read about AI’s capacity to replace jobs that are more pedestrian or mundane; jobs currently occupied by lower income workers. The prediction about labor disruption won’t leave certain higher-waged jobs untouched either as AI platforms, data mining, and machine learning threaten professions such as accounting or law. By determining the data needed to thoroughly analyze the impact and growth of artificial intelligence; identifying the industries that will benefit most from or be harmed the most by AI; and comparing today’s existing job skills with the job skills that will be needed in order to work alongside AI, Congress contribute to alleviating labor force disruption.
The Human-Machine Relationship
Unlike a number of dire predictions of the emergence of “SkyNet” and terminator-like machines subjecting humans to slavery or worse, most analysts and commentators see AI as a tool that augments human capabilities, making humans better or more productive. The emphasis will be on collaborative intelligence, with human and machine working together. And how well that relationship works depends on how well humans program the machine.
Another consideration is artificial intelligence’s ability to self improve. The goal of AI development is to build an artificial intelligent agent that can build another AI agent, preferably with even greater capabilities. The vision is to move from AI’s narrow, single-task capabilities to a more general AI, a concept that sees AI exhibiting greater abilities across multiple tasks, much like humans.
Possible targets of legislation or regulation
If legislation or regulation is to target the machine-human relationship, elected officials and regulatory heads will have to consider their policy initiatives impact on:
- the ability of humans to train machines;
- the ability of humans to explain AI outcomes;
- the ability of machines to amplify human cognitive skills;
- the ability of machines to embody the the human skills necessary that lead to the extension of human physical capabilities;
- the ability of artificial intelligence to self-improve;
- the difference between “safe” AI (the ability to maintain consistency in AI outcomes) versus “ethical” AI (ensuring that AI platforms are not a threat to human life.
Just like the application of artificial intelligence, Congress’ foray into regulation of AI is nascent. This is the time for AI’s stakeholders to either begin or maintain efforts to influence all levels of government on AI’s use in the commercial sector.