Home IssueArtificial Intelligence White House AI Regulation Principles a Welcome Alternative to Over-Regulation

White House AI Regulation Principles a Welcome Alternative to Over-Regulation

by Ashley Johnson
The front of the White House with water spouting from the fountain.

The White House has now unveiled a draft set of principles for artificial intelligence (AI) regulation. The document was a follow-up to last year’s Executive Order 13859, “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence,” which outlined a series of steps for the federal government to ensure the United States remains at the forefront of technological innovation.

The draft guidance presents ten “Principles for the Stewardship of AI Applications” that federal agencies should take into consideration when crafting their approaches to AI. These principles include:

  1. Public trust in AI: Agencies should promote “reliable, robust, and trustworthy” AI.
  2. Public participation: Agencies should provide opportunities for the public to weigh in during the rulemaking process.
  3. Scientific integrity and information quality: Agencies should hold information to high standards of “quality, transparency, and compliance.”
  4. Risk assessment and management: Agencies should assess and manage risks recognizing that all activities involve tradeoffs.
  5. Benefits and costs: Agencies should seek to maximize the “net benefits” of AI.
  6. Flexibility: Agencies should prioritize adaptability in order to keep up with rapid technological advancement.
  7. Fairness and non-discrimination: Agencies should be mindful of the potential for discrimination and bias.
  8. Disclosure and transparency: Agencies should weigh existing and potential new measures for transparency and disclosure.
  9. Safety and security: Agencies should consider safety and security throughout the development and deployment process.
  10. Interagency coordination: Agencies should take a “whole-of-government approach” to ensure consistency and predictability of AI-related policies.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios rightly refers to this set of principles as the “first of its kind.” Its purpose is to guide federal oversight of AI development and deployment in the private sector. The draft strikes a balance between fostering growth and engendering trust; and reducing unnecessary barriers to innovation and safeguarding core American values. The bottom line is that regulators do not have to choose one over the other.

The guidelines instruct agencies to evaluate the evidence and reminds them that they may determine “existing regulations are sufficient or that the benefits of a new regulation do not justify its costs, at that time or in the foreseeable future.” This light-touch approach to AI is a welcome alternative to calls by European policymakers to “legislate first, ask questions later.” AI is still in its early days, and the rush to regulate before working out the implications of new laws could have unintended consequences. Indeed, this shortsightedness is what led Europe’s most notable legislation of the last decade – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – to impose unnecessary costs and legal hurdles on AI’s development and deployment, placing the EU at a strategic disadvantage.

Notably, the guidelines remind agencies that just because they may not issue new regulations, they still have non-regulatory options. Agencies can issue policy guidance to encourage innovation in a specific sector, they can conduct experiments and pilot programs to inform future decisions, and they can develop voluntary standards based on industry consensus. The White House also encourages agencies to reduce barriers to innovation by engaging with the private sector, the international community, and the general public.

Countries that take a more balanced approach will cement their leadership and reap the substantial benefits of AI. With the new draft principles, White House officials have chosen the latter path, calling for other countries to follow: “Europe and our allies should avoid heavy-handed innovation-killing models, and instead consider a similar regulatory approach,” the administration urged.

The current draft is open for public comment until March 13, 2020. Once it is finalized, federal agencies will have 180 days to submit their plans to implement the White House’s AI principles.

Image: Alex Proimos

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