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AI Policy Leadership

by Daniel Castro

As the leading think tank studying the intersection of data, technology, and public policy, the Center for Data Innovation is at the forefront of the debate on policy issues related to artificial intelligence (AI). The Center’s focus is on how public policy can accelerate the successful development and deployment of AI throughout the economy and society, both by ensuring the necessary conditions are in place to facilitate innovation and by overcoming potential challenges in the way of technological advancement. The Center also runs the AI Policy Network, an educational forum for AI policy experts from civil society, academia, government, and industry.

The Center tracks federal legislation related to AI in the United States. View the AI Legislation Tracker.

Understanding the Potential of AI

AI is already generating value in nearly every sector of the economy and society, including health care, transportation, education, energy, and government. Despite the prevalence of this new technology, there is still a critical need to educate lawmakers and regulators about how it works and its potential benefits for the economy and society, so that they can create policies that advance the state of the art.

Featured Research and Analysis

The Promise of AI
Seventy real-world examples show how AI is already generating benefits across 14 sectors of the economy and society—and this only scratches the surface of the many ways that AI is driving innovation and transforming everyday life around the globe.

Digital Decision-Making: The Building Blocks of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Daniel Castro described ways in which AI is already influencing the economy and how AI can be a powerful competitive advantage.

Related Events

Using AI to Fight Disinformation in European Elections
The Center hosted a panel discussion in February 2019 in Brussels to discuss how the public and private sectors can work together to accelerate the use of AI to combat fake news.

Reporter’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence
Daniel Castro participated in a webinar with the National Press Foundation to explain to reporters the fundamentals of AI, its early use cases, and the impact of the technology on workers and society.

Advancing AI Development and Deployment

There are many factors that influence the extent to which organizations develop and deploy AI. For example, macro-level issues, such as government R&D funding, national education pipelines, and international digital trade, can either greatly impede or accelerate AI development and deployment. The Center believes policymakers should proactively support policies to advance AI development and adoption to maximize and more quickly realize the social and economic benefits of AI.

Featured Research and Analysis

Why the United States Needs a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy and What It Should Look Like
Many countries, including China, France, and the United Kingdom, are developing significant initiatives to challenge U.S. dominance in AI. The United States should respond by developing its own national AI strategy to bolster competitiveness, strengthen national security, and maximize the societal benefits that the country could derive from AI.

Comments to NITRD on Updates to the 2016 National AI R&D Strategic Plan
In comments filed with the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, the Center identifies opportunities for NITRD’s National AI R&D Strategic Plan to help the United States maintain its competitive edge in the absence of a comprehensive national AI strategy.

AI Needs Better Data, Not Just More Data
In a survey of 179 data scientists, over half identified poor data quality as the biggest bottleneck in successful AI projects. Rectifying that problem should be a key component of a national strategy to increase competitiveness in AI.

How Can Smaller Cities Join the Growing AI Economy?
Outside of the country’s main tech hubs, the major challenges state and local governments face is ensuring that AI is accessible, available and affordable for local businesses, especially small and medium-sized companies that lack the resources of their larger counterparts.

The EU’s “Softball” Approach to Artificial Intelligence Will Lose to China’s “Hardball”
The European Commission’s Joint Research Center released a report that recognizes the value of AI across industry and acknowledges the fierce competition between the EU, China, and the United States, but it ultimately dismisses the need for Europe to win this global race. It argues instead that the EU should focus on developing values and ethics in AI—something it will have a hard time doing if it is not leading the development and adoption of this technology.

Recommendations to the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI on its “Draft AI Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI”
In feedback to the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) on AI, the Center outlined five key problems with the Commission’s draft AI Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI.

Comments to the Department of Commerce on Export Controls for Emerging Technologies
In comments to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, the Center strongly urged that artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies be excluded from export controls.

Related Events

European AI Strategies: Where Do Member States Stand, and Where Are They Headed?
The Center hosted a panel discussion in Brussels in April 2019 that examined the progress member states have achieved so far in implementing strategies to compete in the global AI race; compared targets, priorities, and dimensions; and assessed the extent to which these national strategies will support Europe’s goal of becoming a global leader in AI.

Integrating Europe’s AI and Cybersecurity Strategies
The Center hosted a panel discussion in Brussels in September 2018 to explore how AI can help Europe strengthen its cyber defenses and consider the steps Europe should take to build more secure AI.

How Countries Are Preparing for the Global AI Race
Like the introduction of other major technologies, from electricity to the Internet, the mass adoption of AI has the potential to create new economic winners and losers in the global economy. The Center held a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. in July 2018 to examine the various strategies countries are using to promote the development and adoption of AI.

Creating Innovation-Friendly Regulation for AI

The evidence suggests that the benefits of AI will vastly outweigh the risks, and that existing laws and regulations, combined with market forces and industry self-regulation, will effectively mitigate most of the potential harms. Therefore, policymakers should avoid overly prescriptive regulations that would limit innovation, and instead narrowly target policy interventions to address specific harms.

Featured Research and Analysis

How Policymakers Can Foster Algorithmic Accountability
An algorithmic system should employ a variety of controls to ensure the operator can verify it acts as intended, and identify and rectify harmful outcomes. Adopting a regulatory framework based on that principle would both promote the vast benefits of algorithmic decision-making and minimize harmful outcomes, while also ensuring laws that apply to human decisions can be effectively applied to algorithmic decisions.

The Impact of the EU’s New Data Protection Regulation on AI
The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have a negative impact on the development and use of AI in Europe, putting EU firms at a competitive disadvantage compared with their competitors in North America and Asia while doing little to protect consumers. In some cases, it could even harm them.

Comments to the FTC on Algorithms, AI, and Predictive Analytics
In comments to the Federal Trade Commission, the Center explained the importance of AI in the digital economy and offered ideas for how regulators can provide effective oversight of automated systems to both protect consumers and allow innovation to flourish.

AI and Society

AI will have profound implications on many aspects of society, so concerns about the social impact of AI are a frequent focus of policy conversations. Some of these concerns are directly related to AI, such as algorithmic bias, ethical AI, and autonomous weapons, while others relate to broader social challenges that AI risks exacerbating, such as fears that AI will accelerate technological unemployment faster than society can adapt, or that large technology firms could take advantage of AI to stifle competition. At the same time, there are many ways in which AI can have a positive social impact, such as by reducing human bias and increasing accessibility. Policymakers should understand the myriad social implications of AI and address them productively in ways that ensure AI has a positive social impact.

Featured Research and Analysis

Worried About Bias in AI? Worry About Humans Instead
If a company values non-discrimination in employment, it will take steps to ensure it does not rely on algorithms to make biased hiring decisions. If a company does not value non-discrimination highly, it will not promote it, regardless of whether it uses AI.

Balancing the Conversation About Facial Recognition
As police departments continue to experiment with facial recognition, policymakers and the public should consider the benefits and risks of the technology fairly and avoid succumbing to knee-jerk alarmism.

Fighting Military AI Research Undermines Social and Economic Progress
AI research in defense is about more than “killer robots”; it can produce immeasurable benefits that can be broadly enjoyed by the public, and shying away from these efforts will leave Americans worse off.

Related Event

The Impact of AI on International Relations
Amid ongoing debates about the potential social, economic, and security impact of AI, there has been little attention given to the impact of AI on international relations or how the technology impacts the work of diplomats and policymakers. The Center joined with the DiploFoundation to host an event in Brussels in January 2019 to discuss the need for further research, capacity development and practice in the sphere of AI and international relations.

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