Artificial Intelligence & Robotics

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 →

As I continue to work hard to complete my new book project on the governance of artificial intelligence, machine learning, 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 our lifetime.

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 →

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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On Thursday, June 9, it was my great pleasure to return to my first work office at the Adam Smith Institute in London and give a talk on the future of innovation policy and the governance of artificial intelligence. James Lawson, who is affiliated with the ASI and wrote a wonderful 2020 study on AI policy, introduced me and also offered some remarks. Among the issues discussed:

  • What sort of governance vision should govern the future of innovation generally and AI in particular: the “precautionary principle” or “permissionless innovation”?
  • Which AI sectors are witnessing the most exciting forms of innovation currently?
  • What are the fundamental policy fault lines in the AI policy debates today?
  • Will fears about disruption and automation lead to a new Luddite movement?
  • How can “soft law” and decentralized governance mechanism help us solve pressing policy concerns surrounding AI?
  • How did automation affect traditional jobs and sectors?
  • Will the European Union’s AI Act become a global model for regulation and will it have a “Brussels Effect” in terms of forcing innovators across the world to come into compliance with EU regulatory mandates?
  • How will global innovation arbitrage affect the efforts by governments in Europe and elsewhere to regulate AI innovation?
  • Can the common law help address AI risk? How is the UK common law system superior to the US legal system?
  • What do we mean by “existential risk” as it pertains to artificial intelligence?

I have a massive study in the works addressing all these issues. In the meantime, you can watch the video of my London talk here. And thanks again to my friends at the Adam Smith Institute for hosting!

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[This is a draft of a section of a forthcoming study on “A Flexible Governance Framework for Artificial Intelligence,” which I hope to complete shortly. I welcome feedback. I have also cross-posted this essay at Medium.]

Debates about how to embed ethics and best practices into AI product design is where the question of public policy defaults becomes important. To the extent AI design becomes the subject of legal or regulatory decision-making, a choice must be made between two general approaches: the precautionary principle or the proactionary principle.[1] While there are many hybrid governance approaches in between these two poles, the crucial issue is whether the initial legal default for AI technologies will be set closer to the red light of the precautionary principle (i.e., permissioned innovation) or to the green light of the proactionary principle (i.e., (permissionless innovation). Each governance default will be discussed.

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This week, I hosted another installment of the “Tech Roundup,” for the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project. This latest 30-minute episode was on, “Autonomous Vehicles: Where Are We Now?” I was joined by Marc Scribner, a transportation policy expert with the Reason Foundation.  We provided an quick update of where federal and state policy for AVs stands as of early 2022 and offered some thoughts about what might happen next in the Biden Administration Department of Transportation (DOT). Some experts believe that the DOT could be ready to start aggressively regulating driverless car tech or AV companies, especially Elon Musk’s Tesla. Tune in to hear what Marc and I have to say about all that and more.

Related Reading:

 

The race for artificial intelligence (AI) supremacy is on with governments across the globe looking to take the lead in the next great technological revolution. As they did before during the internet era, the US and Europe are once again squaring off with competing policy frameworks.

In early January, the Trump Administration announced a new light-touch regulatory framework and then followed up with a proposed doubling of federal R&D spending on AI and quantum computing. This week, the European Union Commission issued a major policy framework for AI technologies and billed it as “a European approach to excellence and trust.”

It seems the EU basically wants to have its cake and eat it too by marrying up an ambitious industrial policy with a precautionary regulatory regime. We’ve seen this show before. Europe is doubling down on the same policy regime it used for the internet and digital commerce. It did not work out well for the continent then, and there are reasons to think it will backfire on them again for AI technologies. Continue reading →

Here’s a new Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency “Tech Roundup” podcast about driverless cars, artificial intelligence and the growth of “soft law” governance for both. The 34-minute podcast features a conversation between Caleb Watney and me about new Trump Administration AI guidelines as well as the Department of Transportation’s new “Version 4.0” guidance for automated vehicles.

This podcast builds on my recent essay, “Trump’s AI Framework & the Future of Emerging Tech Governance” as well as an earlier law review article, “Soft Law for Hard Problems: The Governance of Emerging Technologies in an Uncertain Future.”

Originally published on the AIER blog on 9/8/19 as “The Worst Regulation Ever Proposed.”

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Imagine a competition to design the most onerous and destructive economic regulation ever conceived. A mandate that would make all other mandates blush with embarrassment for not being burdensome or costly enough. What would that Worst Regulation Ever look like?

Unfortunately, Bill de Blasio has just floated a few proposals that could take first and second place prize in that hypothetical contest. In a new Wired essay, the New York City mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate explains, “Why American Workers Need to Be Protected From Automation,” and aims to accomplish that through a new agency with vast enforcement powers, and a new tax.

Taken together, these ideas represent one of the most radical regulatory plans any America politician has yet concocted.

Politicians, academics, and many others have been panicking over automation at least since the days when the Luddites were smashing machines in protest over growing factory mechanization. With the growth of more sophisticated forms of robotics, artificial intelligence, and workplace automation today, there has been a resurgence of these fears and a renewed push for sweeping regulations to throw a wrench in the gears of progress. Mayor de Blasio is looking to outflank his fellow Democratic candidates for president with an anti-automation plan that may be the most extreme proposal of its kind. Continue reading →