What Policy Vision for Artificial Intelligence?

by on April 2, 2023 · 0 comments

In my latest R Street Institute report, I discuss the importance of “Getting AI Innovation Culture Right.” This is the first of a trilogy of major reports on what sort of policy vision and set of governance principles should guide the development of  artificial intelligence (AI), algorithmic systems, machine learning (ML), robotics, and computational science and engineering more generally. More specifically, these reports seek to answer the question, Can we achieve AI safety without innovation-crushing top-down mandates and massive new regulatory bureaucracies? 

These questions are particular pertinent as we just made it through a week in which we’ve seen a major open letter issued that calls for a 6-month freeze on the deployment of AI technologies, while a prominent AI ethicist argued that governments should go further and consider airstrikes data processing centers even if the exchange of nuclear weapons needed to be considered! On top of that, Italy became the first major nation to ban ChatGPT, the popular AI-enabled chatbot created by U.S.-based OpenAI.

My report begins from a different presumption: AI, ML and algorithmic technologies present society with enormously benefits and, while real risks are there, we can find better ways of addressing them. As I summarize:

The danger exists that policy for algorithmic systems could be formulated in such a way that innovations are treated as guilty until proven innocent—i.e., a precautionary principle approach to policy—resulting in many important AI applications never getting off the drawing board. If regulatory impediments block or slow the creation of life-enriching, and even life-saving, AI innovations, that would leave society less well-off and give rise to different types of societal risks.

I argue that it is essential we not trap AI in an “innovation cage” by establishing the wrong policy default for algorithmic governance but instead work through challenges as they come at us. The right policy default for the internet and for AI continues to be “innovation allowed.” But AI risks do require serious governance steps. Luckily, many tools exist and others are being created. While my next major report (due out April 20th) offers far more detail, this paper sketches out some of those mechanisms. 

The goal of algorithmic policy should be for policymakers and innovators to work together to find flexible, iterative, agile, bottom-up governance solutions over time. We can promote a culture of responsibility among leading AI innovators and balance safety and innovation for complex, rapidly evolving computational and computing technologies like AI. This approach is buttressed by existing laws and regulations, as well as common law and the courts.

The new Biden Admin “AI Bill of Rights” unfortunately represents a fear-based model of technology policymaking that breaks from the superior Clinton framework for the internet & digital technology. Our nation’s policy toward AI, robotics & algorithmic innovation should instead embrace a dynamic future and the enormous possibilities that await us.

Please check out my new paper for more details. Much more to come. And you can also check out my running list of research on AI, ML robotics policy.

Spectrum of Technological Governance Options

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