Primer: How to Understand and Approach AI Regulation
Countries and firms across the globe are racing to capitalize on artificial intelligence (AI). To ensure that the United States can capture the gains from this new technology, policymakers should recognize several things:
- Premature regulation is likely to be deleterious to innovation and progress in AI;
- Large firms have taken the lead on AI implementation and shouldn’t be punished for doing so; and finally
- The United States shouldn’t pursue a singular strategy of dominance, but rather a multiplicity of strategies that rely on the ingenuity of industries and individuals, working in concert, rather than conflict, with government agencies.
Calls for Regulation
Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and the late Stephen Hawking have been among the most vocal luminaries calling for the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), but they are hardly alone. Countless papers, conferences, and talks dedicated to algorithms and artificial intelligence call for the same. Without detailing the harms, or explaining how the market has failed, many tend to focus on proposals to tax, regulate, and limit robots and artificial intelligence.
Embedded in these calls for new government power are countless uncertainties, as the track record of technology forecasts is far from stellar. One of the largest retrospective reviews of technology forecasts found that predictions beyond a decade were hardly better than a coin flip. In an analysis that focused specifically on AI predictions, the authors warned of “the general overconfidence of experts, the superiority of models over expert judgement, and the need for greater uncertainty in all types of predictions.” Predictions that general AI is just around the corner have failed countless times across several decades.
This uncertainty indicates a fundamental reality about AI: It is a developing collection of technologies with a tremendous variety of applications. As a result, policymakers should embrace regulatory restraint, although there are opportunities for policy to strengthen AI development. The goal for policymakers should not be a singular AI policy or strategy, but a regulatory and policy approach that is sensitive to developments within society.