AI policy advisory group talks competition in draft report

The National AI Advisory Committee's first draft report points out how investing in AI research and development can help the U.S. stay competitive.

An artificial intelligence advisory group created in 2020 to inform the federal government on AI policy is treading carefully in recommending new rules and regulations.

In its first draft report released this week, the National AI Advisory Committee (NAIAC) makes initial recommendations on building out trustworthy AI governance, bolstering national AI leadership, investing in AI research and workforce, and cultivating international collaboration on AI policy.

However, in its first year working on issues surrounding AI, the group isn't proposing any new AI policies in the draft report.

The first step is adapting existing consumer protection laws to potential harms caused by AI systems, said Reggie Townsend, NAIAC member and vice president of data ethics practice at software company SAS Institute. The Federal Trade Commission and other consumer protection agencies came together this week to support enforcing consumer protection laws for AI systems used in decision-making for housing, lending and employment opportunities.

"It's important to evaluate the current legal structure and see how that applies before you create a lot of new rules," Townsend said during a Brookings Institution discussion about the NAIAC draft report.

Miriam Vogel, NAIAC chair and president and CEO of nonprofit EqualAI, echoed Townsend, noting that it's crucial to understand how existing laws can apply before creating new regulation aimed at AI.

One helpful thing is to examine current laws, regulations, norms and standards and then look at "where we need new regulations," she said.

First NAIAC draft report focuses on keeping the U.S. government competitive

NAIAC is organized into five working groups: trustworthy AI, research and development, workforce, international collaboration, and competitiveness. Vogel said the U.S. is at a "critical crossroads" in taking advantage of AI's benefits and protecting against harms.

It's important to evaluate the current legal structure and see how that applies before you create a lot of new rules.
Reggie TownsendNAIAC member; vice president of data ethics practice, SAS Institute

In the draft report, NAIAC endorses advancing the implementation plan proposed by the National AI Research Resource Task Force earlier this year that aims to create a large-scale national AI research resource as one way for the U.S. to remain competitive in AI.

Expanding AI research resources, particularly beyond the private tech industry, will help the U.S. government advance its understanding of AI as well as issues around establishing new AI policy going forward, Vogel said.

"The reality is that so much of this technological development is happening on the industry side," Vogel said. "We need to make sure there is government support for many reasons: to make sure that our country is competitive and to make sure there is democratization of access and inputs."

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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