Technology policy's next big challenge: Divergent approaches to … – Lexology

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The rapid growth of AI and its ramifications for nearly all aspects of society and the economy is placing increasing pressure on the U.S. and European governments to proactively set regulations and guardrails for this nascent technological revolution. While AI regulation is only in its infancy, we are already seeing divergent regulatory approaches on either side of the Atlantic. What is clear, however, is that AI policy will be a hotly debated issue in the halls of government for years to come.
Even in a bitterly divided Washington, Congress and the Biden Administration are keenly focused on the growth of AI. Over the coming months and years, we expect this focus to grow and AI policymaking efforts to intensify.
Congress: Bipartisan Hopes, Partisan Pitfalls
AI is one of the current “shiny objects” in Congress, raising the attention of many Members of Congress who see the regulation of AI as a potentially bipartisan issue. In the first months of the new Congress, both the House and Senate have already held several hearings and introduced legislation on various aspects of AI regulation. Further, in April, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an intensive effort to examine and understand AI technology and develop a legislative framework.
As the U.S. Congress begins to consider fundamental policy issues in AI regulation, there are several overarching, sometimes conflicting dynamics in play. First, lawmakers are intent on ensuring that China does not outpace U.S. innovation. China’s rising geopolitical and economic power is one of the only bipartisan issues in a bitterly partisan Congress, and we expect it to color the debate over AI regulation. Second, Congress has been highly focused on the tech sector in recent years, including data privacy, competition, and children’s online safety. Some members are now also looking at the intersection of some of these issues with AI.
That said, there is far from any bipartisan consensus on how to regulate AI or even what specific issues to address. Some Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern about the potential for AI to perpetuate bias, misinformation, and discrimination. Meanwhile, some Republicans see AI as an area for economic growth and cost savings, but they are also concerned that AI might could out conservative thoughts. Partisan politics in
the run-up to the 2024 electioncould also overwhelm Congress’s attention. In short, we expect much congressional interest and activity on AI over the coming years, but it remains to be seen how any proposals will progress.
Biden Administration:
At the same time, the Biden Administration has been steadily outlining its proposed framework for regulating AI across industries, including:
The explosion in the use and application of generative AI since late 2022 has put its regulation firmly at the center of the policy agenda across Europe. Much has been said about the vast potential for AI to change every facet of ordinary life, but some have also expressed concerns about potential harms, including bias, inaccuracy, and infringement of rights.
It is no surprise then that AI is featuring among Europe’s most prominent policy debates. The main policy driver in the UK appears to be promoting investment in the safe development of AI capabilities while also leveraging post-Brexit regulatory flexibility to position the UK as a regional AI powerhouse. The government calls this its “pro-innovation” approach, with the Prime Minister recently launching a £100m Taskforce, modeled on the UK COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce, to assist the development of UK-based AI technology and advise on AI policy. Meanwhile, the focus in the EU is on being at the forefront of a new sphere of technology regulation and setting a global standard. Political agreement was recently reached in the European Parliament on a version of the EU’s flagship comprehensive AI legislation, the AI Act. Last-minute amendments were secured, which supplement the Act’s requirements to target the specific potential risks posed by generative AI and chatbots by ensuring that such systems can only be designed and developed in accordance with fundamental rights. As explained in our previous article, regional policymakers are not taking a consistent approach to the regulation of AI:
As demonstrated by the rapid adoption of large language models and generative AI, and the concerns voiced since, the current policy drivers are very susceptible to change as new technologies emerge and their risks become more visible to the public.
The vast and increasing number of businesses operating in Europe that develop or use AI systems have an important role to play in informing the policy debate. Engaging with the EU legislative process before the AI Act becomes law, and with UK regulators tasked with applying the “AI principles,” will be critical to developing proportionate and workable regulation.
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