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Schumer's proposed AI policy roadmap blasted by critics

Sen. Chuck Schumer's AI policy roadmap wants $32 billion to boost AI innovation. It also prioritizes a federal data privacy framework and existing laws to govern AI.

The bipartisan Senate AI Working Group's AI policy roadmap has divided policy, research and business organizations. While some believe the roadmap advances tech companies' agendas, others see promise in its priority of AI innovation.

The AI roadmap proposed Wednesday by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Martin Henrich, D-N.M., and Todd Young, R-Ind., lays out several policy priorities for Congress, stemming from nine AI Insight Forums convened throughout the last year. Some of the policy priorities include providing $32 billion in funding for promoting AI innovation; ensuring enforcement of existing laws to address problems caused by AI, such as harmful bias; considering the impact of AI on the workforce; addressing concerns about deepfakes related to election content; and establishing a comprehensive federal data privacy framework.

Critics decried the roadmap, dismissing it as an industry-driven wish list offering no concrete remedies for the potential societal disruptions caused by AI. The AI roadmap doesn't guarantee any of the proposed policies will be enacted into law before the 2024 presidential election.

The AI policy roadmap exemplifies big tech companies' "profound and pervasive power to shape the policymaking process," said Nicole Gill, co-founder and executive director of Accountable Tech, in a statement. Schumer's closed-door AI Insight Forums brought together more than 150 experts to discuss AI, including tech leaders from companies such as OpenAI, Microsoft, Nvidia and Google.

"The last year of closed-door Insight Forums has been a dream scenario for the tech industry, who played an outsized role in developing this roadmap and delaying legislation," she said.

AI roadmap receives negative, positive reactions

Gill said Schumer's AI policy roadmap serves industries developing AI instead of providing concrete legislation addressing AI issues such as biases, deepfakes affecting elections and increased energy demand.

In a joint statement, Amba Kak and Sarah Myers West, co-executive directors of AI policy research group AI Now Institute, said the list of proposals doesn't substitute for enforceable law and called Schumer's AI Insight Forums an "industry-dominated process."

The last year of closed-door Insight Forums has been a dream scenario for the tech industry, who played an outsized role in developing this roadmap and delaying legislation.
Nicole GillCo-founder and executive director, Accountable Tech

The AI Now Institute directors also voiced concerns with the proposed $32 billion investment in AI research and development.

"This proposed investment risks further consolidating power back in AI infrastructure providers and replicating industry incentives," the statement said. "We'll be looking for assurances to prevent this from taking place."

However, the AI roadmap prioritizes AI innovation and recognizes the benefits of AI in areas such as healthcare, education and transportation, said Hodan Omaar, senior policy manager at the Center for Data Innovation, in a statement.

Omaar said Schumer's AI roadmap will help the U.S. avoid a strict regulatory regime for AI like the EU's AI Act, which she said has "failed to prioritize AI innovation and adoption." Still, she said it doesn't mean the U.S. won't enact AI legislation.

Omaar said she believes the roadmap could spur legislative activity in Congress to address specific AI concerns such as privacy and safety. She said the challenge facing lawmakers will be picking the right policy for those concerns. However, Congress has spent months debating different AI bills without advancing any to the House or Senate floors. Congress has also yet to pass any federal data privacy bills.

"They should recognize that certain issues may require new regulations, but many can be addressed by legislation that sets guidelines, promotes certain practices or incentivizes desired behaviors," she said.

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

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