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US requests public comment on AI regulation

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The Unites States Department of Commerce is requesting public comment on the types of measures that should be implemented to create accountability for artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

As generative AI tools such as ChatGPT continue to rise in popularity, the US government has begun considering imposing AI audits, risk assessments and other measures that could ensure the ethical use of these technologies. 

“There is a heightened level of concern now, given the pace of innovation, that it needs to happen responsibly,” said Alan Davidson, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“In the same way that financial audits created trust in the accuracy of financial statements for businesses, accountability mechanisms for AI can help assure that an AI system is trustworthy,” he added. 

The NTIA has requested the public - including both experts and consumers - to suggest measures that would help regulate the use of AI tools, including “self-regulatory” procedures that companies would be likely to lead.

The organisation is also reported to be seeking to establish processes that would allow the government to determine whether AI systems perform the way companies claim they do and ensure they don't reproduce biases or harm individuals. 

“We have to move fast because these AI technologies are moving very fast in some ways,” Davidson said. “We’ve had the luxury of time with some of those other technologies … this feels much more urgent.”

The NTIA move comes alongside the publication of a US Chamber of Commerce report on the rise of AI. The report calls on policymakers and business leaders to establish a "risk-based regulatory framework" that will ensure AI is deployed responsibly.

The analysis also asserts that within 20 years, "virtually every" business and government agency will use AI. However, it stresses the need to ensure that these tools are used in an ethical way and that companies are made accountable for their errors. 

"Rather than trying to develop a one size-fits-all regulatory framework, this approach to AI regulation allows for the development of flexible, industry-specific guidance and best practices," the report says.

PwC has estimated that AI could contribute up to $15.7tn to global economies by 2030, and nations like China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UK have stepped up to declare their intentions to become global centres for AI innovation.

Last week, US President Joe Biden said during a meeting with his council of science and technology advisers that tech companies must ensure their products are safe before releasing them to the public.

The Biden administration has previously spoken about the need to regulate AI deployment, and even unveiled a new AI Bill of Rights, which outlines five protections internet users should have in the AI age.

However, the rise of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT has led governments to accelerate these regulatory projects. These free tools can generate text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry. However, experts have raised concerns about the risks these tools could pose to people’s privacy, human rights or safety. 

“These new language models, for example, are really powerful and they do have the potential to generate real harm,” Davidson said in an interview. “We think that these accountability mechanisms could truly help by providing greater trust in the innovation that’s happening.”

In order to prevent these technologies from causing harm, the European Commission has proposed an AI Liability Directive that would help people harmed by AI and digital devices, while the UK has begun designing more ‘light touch’ regulatory frameworks regarding the safe use of AI.

Last week, China unveiled draft measures that would make companies responsible for the data used to train generative AI models, such as Midjourney and ChatGPT.

In 2021 alone, US lawmakers introduced more than 100 AI-related bills, and the pace of regulation on the topic is only accelerating. 

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