Washington has quickly focused on artificial intelligence as industry experts and academics raise alarms. However, there is practically any coordination when it comes to controlling the quickly advancing technologies.

The government of President Joe Biden has launched a variety of administrative initiatives to research the technology, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is collaborating with experts and stakeholders to create a comprehensive legislative framework for AI regulation. Several committees on Capitol Hill are having their own public hearings and private sessions to try to address AI capabilities that come under their purview without a clear strategy for addressing the issue.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, stated in an interview that “the reality is that the development of AI is at warp speed and none of us can keep up with it.”

“I do think it’s important for us, together, to talk about what the values are that we hope to enhance, preserve, and protect with AI,” he added. “But we’re a long way from having a coordinated approach.”

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and one of the nation’s top experts in artificial intelligence, will speak to members of Congress this week as they attempt to catch up. Altman will address House Democrats and Republicans during a dinner discussion on Monday night that is being hosted by Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu of California and GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Then, on Tuesday, Altman will give a first-ever testimony about AI on Capitol Hill before a Judiciary subcommittee on privacy and technology chaired by Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Though few have provided specific legislative recommendations, many tech CEOs have urged for some kind of regulation or standards for the AI business. Although there is no evidence that any of the major companies in the industry will do so, thousands of tech leaders and academics signed an open letter in March urging businesses to halt new trials with enormous AI models for at least six months.

The Biden administration is attempting to mold AI technologies and make sure they are created and utilized properly by using its existing authorities rather than recommending broad AI legislation that could take years to implement.

The White House announced a number of executive actions this month, including a $140 million commitment to build seven new AI research facilities and new AI guidelines for federal agencies, on the same day Vice President Kamala Harris met with Altman and other AI luminaries.

An “AI Bill of Rights” was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last fall. It serves as a guide for tech corporations and other organizations as they develop and use potent and potentially hazardous AI capabilities. Although the blueprint is not legally binding, administration officials contend that enterprises and the larger AI industry in general have a responsibility to safeguard the security and safety of their products.

Several organizations, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Justice Department, have stated that they are on the lookout for automated systems that could engage in criminal discrimination, such as algorithms that might refuse a person housing based on their race. Companies that overstate their usage of AI are at risk of being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for possible deceptive advertising.

Biden’s executive action to try to influence the rapid development of AI tools, from OpenAI’s enormously popular chatbot ChatGPT to AI image generators and voice cloning software that are deceiving everyday Americans, is seen as advantageous even by some lawmakers who are aggressively pushing for new AI legislation.

A fresh legislative push on AI would be “immensely difficult—from an intellectual and legal standpoint, but also from a political perspective, which is the tremendous advantage of using existing agencies and regulatory framework,” Blumenthal added. “Just think of how long and how hard we’ve worked on privacy, which is complex and difficult but may be child’s play compared to AI regulation.”

It’s just too new and difficult,
Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, asserted on Sunday’s episode of NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the AI business needs to establish standards before the government attempts to intervene “because there’s no way a nonindustry person can understand what is possible.”

Schimdt stated, “It’s just too new, too hard, there isn’t the expertise.” “No one in the government is capable of doing it correctly. However, if the market gets it nearly right, the government can surround it with regulations.

At the “Hack the Capitol” cybersecurity conference last week, Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, suggested that regulatory action might be taken to address AI security issues. But she went on to say, “Businesses should be organized at the top level to put a priority on safety and security.”

You just can’t conceive of innovation as being incompatible with security and safety, she said, adding that this doesn’t mean you can’t have it.

In the past, with technologies like social media, federal regulators and lawmakers have been forced to play catch-up to Silicon Valley, according to Steve DelBianco, a lobbyist for the tech sector who is opposed to government control of AI.

Washington doesn’t believe Silicon Valley has considered the repercussions and disruptions of the technology they’ve introduced, according to DelBianco.

Regulators and lawmakers “are competing for the spotlight, to show that they’re taking the lead to protect constituents, protect consumers” when it comes to AI, he claimed.

Developing concepts
Washington’s response to AI may currently appear fragmented, but politicians, regulators, and White House officials are actively discussing it. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, scheduled an AI briefing on May 3 at the White House with Arati Prabhakar, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, according to a statement from Durbin’s office. The meeting was attended by about 20 senators, including Democrats and Republicans.

Blumenthal referred to artificial intelligence as the “new bright, shiny object” in Washington and said he saw no issue with a more bottom-up, organic approach to crafting rules at this early stage.

“I guess I kind of see this phase as ideas forming and gathering around the ideas that make sense, but you know, there doesn’t have to be a kind of top-down approach. Let 1,000 flowers blossom, in my opinion,” Blumenthal told NBC News.

Nevertheless, he maintained that the executive branch will have to take the initiative given the necessity for global cooperation, much like the Human Genome Project in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In the end, Blumenthal asserted, “Presidential leadership is absolutely necessary here.” There are a lot of global ramifications. Congress is unable to negotiate with China on their commitment to upholding the norms and regulations we enact.

Other legislators claim they want to attack the AI challenge in manageable chunks. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., reported that AI-related topics were covered in a closed-door briefing last week by the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats. Additionally, he stated that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, a sizable defense policy package that Congress must adopt each year, will place a lot of emphasis on AI challenges.

According to Kaine, “I believe the pace of talks on AI on many committees is picking up right now.

Rep. Jay Obernolte, a Republican from California and a video game producer with a UCLA master’s degree in artificial intelligence, said he is involved in House-Senate discussions to establish a congressional AI working group that can resolve concerns beforehand so they don’t delay a legislative package.

“The creation of a potential regulatory framework is still in its very early phases. Additionally, I believe that there will be more coordination as the endeavor develops, according to Obernolte.

“The goal,” he stated, “will be to have a bipartisan, bicameral working group so we can put something together that doesn’t have to go through the torturous process of being modified and completely changed as it moves from committee to house, and house to Senate.”

Biden supporter and Commerce Committee member Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, declared his commitment to seeing AI legislation passed on topics close to his heart, including national security and copyright violations in the entertainment industry. He anticipated that if Congress sent Biden AI legislation, Biden would support it.

I value the work being done by the executive branch, Luján stated. We move legislation, and I’m a lawmaker and a legislator. We collaborate to build packages. We reach agreement.


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