I’ve been floating around in conservative policy circles for 30 years and I have spent much of that time covering media policy and child safety issues. My time in conservative circles began in 1992 with a 9-year stint at the Heritage Foundation, where I launched the organization’s policy efforts on media regulation, the Internet, and digital technology. Meanwhile, my work on child safety has spanned 4 think tanks, multiple blue ribbon child safety commissions, countless essays, dozens of filings and testimonies, and even a multi-edition book.

During this three-decade run, I’ve tried my hardest to find balanced ways of addressing some of the legitimate concerns that many conservatives have about kids, media content, and online safety issues. Raising kids is the hardest job in the world. My daughter and son are now off at college, but the last twenty years of helping them figure out how to navigate the world and all the challenges it poses was filled with difficulties. This was especially true because my daughter and son faced completely different challenges when it came to media content and online interactions. Simply put, there is no one-size-fits-all playbook when it comes to raising kids or addressing concerns about healthy media interactions. Continue reading →

It was my pleasure this week to participate in a panel discussion about the future of innovation policy at the James Madison Institute’s 2022 Tech and Innovation Summit in Coral Gables, FL. Our conversation focused on the future of Progress Studies, which is one of my favorite topics. We were asked to discuss five major questions and below I have summarized some of my answers to them, plus some other thoughts I had about what I heard at the conference from others.

  1. What is progress studies and why is it so needed today?

In a sense, Progress Studies is nothing new. Progress studies goes back at least to the days of Adam Smith and plenty of important scholars have been thinking about it ever since. Those scholars and policy advocates have long been engaged in trying to figure out what’s the secret sauce that powers economic growth and human prosperity. It’s just that we didn’t call that Progress Studies in the old days.

The reason Progress Studies is important is because technological innovation has been shown to be the fundamental driver in improvements in human well-being over time.  When we can move the needle on progress, it helps individuals extend and improve their lives, incomes, and happiness. By extension, progress helps us live lives of our choosing. As Hans Rosling brilliantly argued, the goal of expanding innovation opportunities and raising incomes “is not just bigger piles of money” or more leisure time. “The ultimate goal is to have the freedom to do what we want.” Continue reading →

[Cross-posted from Medium.]

In an age of hyper-partisanship, one issue unites the warring tribes of American politics like no other: hatred of “Big Tech.” You know, those evil bastards who gave us instantaneous access to a universe of information at little to no cost. Those treacherous villains! People are quick to forget the benefits of moving from a world of Information Poverty to one of Information Abundance, preferring to take for granted all they’ve been given and then find new things to complain about.

But what mostly unites people against large technology platforms is the feeling that they are just too big or too influential relative to other institutions, including government. I get some of that concern, even if I strongly disagree with many of their proposed solutions, such as the highly dangerous sledgehammer of antitrust breakups or sweeping speech controls. Breaking up large tech companies would not only compromise the many benefits they provide us with, but it would undermine America’s global standing as a leader in information and computational technology. We don’t want that. And speech codes or meddlesome algorithmic regulations are on a collision course with the First Amendment and will just result in endless litigation in the courts.

There’s a better path forward. As President Ronald Reagan rightly said in 1987 when vetoing a bill to reestablish the Fairness Doctrine, “History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee.” In other words, as I wrote in a previous essay about “The Classical Liberal Approach to Digital Media Free Speech Issues,” more innovation and competition are always superior to more regulation when it comes to encouraging speech and speech opportunities.

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[Cross-posted from Medium.]

James Pethokousis of AEI interviews me about the current miserable state of modern science fiction, which is just dripping with dystopian dread in every movie, show, and book plot. How does all the techno-apocalyptica affect societal and political attitudes about innovation broadly and emerging technologies in particular. Our discussion builds on my recent a recent Discourse article, “How Science Fiction Dystopianism Shapes the Debate over AI & Robotics.” [Pasted down below.] Swing on over to Jim’s “Faster, Please” newsletter and hear what Jim and I have to say. And, for a bonus question, Jim asked me is we doing a good job of inspiring kids to have a sense of wonder and to take risks. I have some serious concerns that we are falling short on that front.

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[Cross-posted from Medium]

There are two general types of technological governance that can be used to address challenges associated with artificial intelligence (AI) and computational sciences more generally. We can think of these as “on the ground” (bottom-up, informal “soft law”) governance mechanisms versus “on the books” (top-down, formal “hard law”) governance mechanisms.

Unfortunately, heated debates about the latter type of governance often divert attention from the many ways in which the former can (or already does) help us address many of the challenges associated with emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and robotics. It is important that we think harder about how to optimize these decentralized soft law governance mechanisms today, especially as traditional hard law methods are increasingly strained by the relentless pace of technological change and ongoing dysfunctionalism in the legislative and regulatory arenas.

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For my latest column in The Hill, I explored the European Union’s (EU) endlessly expanding push to regulate all facets of the modern data economy. That now includes a new effort to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) using the same sort of top-down, heavy-handed, bureaucratic compliance regime that has stifled digital innovation on the continent over the past quarter century.

The European Commission (EC) is advancing a new Artificial Intelligence Act, which proposes banning some AI technologies while classifying many others under a heavily controlled “high-risk” category. A new bureaucracy, the European Artificial Intelligence Board, will be tasked with enforcing a wide variety of new rules, including “prior conformity assessments,” which are like permission slips for algorithmic innovators. Steep fines are also part of the plan. There’s a lengthy list of covered sectors and technologies, with many others that could be added in coming years. It’s no wonder, then, that the measure has been labelled the measure “the mother of all AI laws” and analysts have argued it will further burden innovation and investment in Europe.

As I noted in my new column, the consensus about Europe’s future on the emerging technology front is dismal to put it mildly. The International Economy journal recently asked 11 experts from Europe and the U.S. where the EU currently stood in global tech competition. Responses were nearly unanimous and bluntly summarized by the symposium’s title: “The Biggest Loser.” Respondents said Europe is “lagging behind in the global tech race,” and “unlikely to become a global hub of innovation.” “The future will not be invented in Europe,” another analyst bluntly concluded. Continue reading →

[last updated 9/10/2022]

As I continue to work hard to complete my new book project on the governance of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotics, I thought I would start a running list of all the essays and reports I’ve already rolled out on these issues just so I can keep track of everything. I also want to use this as an opportunity to seek out potential intellectual allies in what will become the biggest technology policy battle of the next decade.

Why have I decided to spend so much time on this issue? Because this will become the most important technological revolution of our lifetimes. Every segment of the economy will be touched in some fashion by AI, ML, robotics, and the power of computational science. It should be equally clear that public policy will be radically transformed along the way.

Eventually, all policy will involve AI policy and computational considerations. As AI eats the world, it eats the world of public policy along with it. The stakes here are profound for individuals, economies, and nations. As a result, AI policy will be the most important technology policy fight of the next decade, and perhaps next quarter century. Those who are passionate about the freedom to innovate need to prepare to meet the challenge as proposals to regulate AI proliferate.

There are many socio-technical concerns surrounding algorithmic systems that deserve serious consideration and appropriate governance steps to ensure that these systems are beneficial to society. However, there is an equally compelling public interest in ensuring that AI innovations are developed and made widely available to help improve human well-being across many dimensions. And that’s the case that I’ll be dedicating my life to making in coming years.

I have so many forthcoming essays and papers planned that I can’t begin to list them all here, but stay tuned because much more is to come. Anyway, here’s the list of what I’ve done so far. I will continue to update this as more material is released: Continue reading →

I’m finishing up my next book, which is tentatively titled, “A Flexible Governance Framework for Artificial Intelligence.” I thought I’d offer a brief preview here in the hope of connecting with others who care about innovation in this space and are also interested in helping to address these policy issues going forward.

The goal of my book is to highlight the ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML), robotics, and the power of computational science are set to transform the world—and the world of public policy—in profound ways. As with all my previous books and research products, my goal in this book includes both empirical and normative components. The first objective is to highlight the tensions between emerging technologies and the public policies that govern them. The second is to offer a defense of a specific governance stance toward emerging technologies intended to ensure we can enjoy the fruits of algorithmic innovation.

AI is a transformational technology that is general-purpose and dual-use. AI and ML also build on top of other important technologies—computing, microprocessors, the internet, high-speed broadband networks, and data storage/processing systems—and they will become the building blocks for a great many other innovations going forward. This means that, eventually, all policy will involve AI policy and computational considerations at some level. It will become the most important technology policy issue here and abroad going forward.

The global race for AI supremacy has important implications for competitive advantage and other geopolitical issues. This is why nations are focusing increasing attention on what they need to do to ensure they are prepared for this next major technological revolution. Public policy attitudes and defaults toward innovative activities will have an important influence on these outcomes.

In my book, I argue that, if the United States hopes to maintain a global leadership position in AI, ML, and robotics, public policy should be guided by two objectives:

  1. Maximize the potential for innovation, entrepreneurialism, investment, and worker opportunities by seeking to ensure that firms and other organizations are prepared to compete at a global scale for talent and capital and that the domestic workforce is properly prepared to meet the same global challenges.
  2. Develop a flexible governance framework to address various ethical concerns about AI development or use to ensure these technologies benefit humanity, but work to accomplish this goal without undermining the goals set forth in the first objective.

The book primarily addresses the second of these priorities because getting the governance framework for AI right significantly improves the chances of successfully accomplishing the first goal of ensuring that the United States remains a leading global AI innovator. Continue reading →

For my latest regular column in The Hill, I took a look at the trade-offs associated with the EU’s AI Act. This is derived from a much longer chapter on European AI policy that is in my forthcoming book, and I also plan on turning it into a free-standing paper at some point soon. My oped begins as follows:

In the intensifying race for global competitiveness in artificial intelligence (AI), the United States, China and the European Union are vying to be the home of what could be the most important technological revolution of our lifetimes. AI governance proposals are also developing rapidly, with the EU proposing an aggressive regulatory approach to add to its already-onerous regulatory regime.

It would be imprudent for the U.S. to adopt Europe’s more top-down regulatory model, however, which already decimated digital technology innovation in the past and now will do the same for AI. The key to competitive advantage in AI will be openness to entrepreneurialism, investment and talent, plus a flexible governance framework to address risks.

Jump over to The Hill to read the entire thing. And down below you will find all my recent writing on AI and robotics. This will be my primary research focus in coming years.

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