U.S. Needs Sharper Focus on Artificial Intelligence Policy: Lawmaker


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One of Congress’ biggest backers of artificial intelligence is warning the U.S. government to pay more attention to the technology. 

Smarter federal spending on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and initiatives to better prepare for its impact are needed to avert a national security and economic crisis, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) said at a Washington D.C. research conference Feb. 22.

Delaney, who co-chairs the Congressional AI Caucus, said the U.S. needs to start budgeting better to mitigate the risks associated with AI. The technology will improve health care and lengthen life expectancy in the U.S. Since it will also replace and simultaneously create many jobs, workers also will need extensive retraining. Both scenarios will require more government spending on healthcare and education, he said. 

Advancements in foreign military’s use of AI will also force the U.S. to make major upgrades in national defense, he said. 

The country’s pattern of deficit spending—worsened by recent tax and spending bills—is making the U.S. more vulnerable to the threat, he said.

“It’s as predicable a crisis as we’ve ever seen,” Delaney said. “This is almost certainly going to happen.”

AI has the potential to make people healthier, create new jobs and connect communities, Delaney said. Government may not need to step in with regulations, but it will need to play a role in how these new innovations shape society, he said.

“If we don’t do it for this next wave of change, I fear the results will be very negative,” he said.

Delaney said his bill (H.R. 4625), introduced in December, would take the initial step of analyzing the impacts of AI technology. Bipartisan companion legislation was also introduced by in the Senate by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The legislation would create a committee in the Department of Commerce that would provide recommendations for guidelines, rulemakings or legislation related to AI. These recommendations would aim to promote investment and U.S. competitiveness in the technology, adapt the U.S. workforce, prevent bias in the tech and protect individuals’ privacy rights. 

In congressional hearings on AI late last year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle echoed Delaney’s concerns about AI’s potential to disrupt employment and create bias in decision making. Still, the U.S. lacks a national strategy for the technology, putting it behind countries like China, Canada, Japan and the U.K.