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Washington needs help before it can regulate AI, says Rep. Ted Lieu

“But I just want to note that there’s no reason why someone can’t write AI laws or vote on AI just because they’re not computer literate, for example. example,” said Lieu, a Stanford graduate and one of the few members of Congress with a background in technology. “I vote on all kinds of laws that I’m not an expert on.”

Lawmakers are already trying to catch up with rapidly evolving technology, while facing growing pressure to act before it fundamentally transforms industries and government functions, from national security to education in through health care.

Once lawmakers understand how AI algorithms can be biased or how technology can harm people, they will be empowered to fix it, Lieu said. His solution to get there is legislation to create a special commission to study artificial intelligence and then advise lawmakers on how to regulate it. This law project, HR 4223 (118)is co-sponsored by Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Anna Eshoo (D-California).

“My view is that Congress doesn’t have the bandwidth to be able to regulate AI and all of its possible applications,” Lieu said. “That’s why I think we need a commission to give us models on which to look at how we can regulate AI in the future.”

In the Senate, Majority Leader chuck schumer is hosting a series of forums this fall with leaders and tech experts, focused on how AI will shape national security, privacy and copyrights, but no legislation from these efforts is expected until next year.

“Legislating AI certainly won’t be easy,” Schumer said Wednesday. “In fact, it’s going to be one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but we can’t behave like ostriches sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to AI.”

Still, Lieu would rather see lawmakers set standards and principles for AI, then leave it up to federal agencies to implement them for the industries they regulate. “Because if Congress writes a very specific bill and we make a mistake, it will take another law of Congress to fix it,” he said.

He uses the Food and Drug Administration as an analogy. Congress doesn’t have the time or knowledge to regulate individual drugs, Lieu said, but it can fund and oversee a group of FDA experts who do this work full-time.

Lieu said the creation of an AI commission shouldn’t stop members of Congress from passing legislation this session. A short-term objective: to pass his other bill, 1394 (118)it would prohibit the US military from using fully autonomous nuclear weapons.

“This is a fairly simple and sensible piece of legislation that can be passed and signed into law without the need for a commission to study this issue,” he said. “It is not very complicated.”

Congress should also ban the use of AI-generated deepfakes in political elections, Lieu said, an action he said should appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike.

“The best way to think about AI is that it’s not a person. He’s not a human being. It’s not sensitive. It’s a tool that can be used for better or for worse, which also means there’s nothing particularly partisan about it,” he said.

Annie Rees contributed to this report.

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