Artificial Intelligence Bills Introduced in Congress

On December 12, 2017, members of Congress – in a bipartisan effort – introduced bills to enact the Fundamentally Understanding The Usability and Realistic Evolution (FUTURE) of Artificial Intelligence Act of 2017. In the House of Representatives, Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) – founder of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Caucus – along with six cosponsors – including AI Caucus co-chair Pete Olson (R-TX) – introduced H.R.4625. In the Senate, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) along with co-sponsors Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced S.2217.

In a press release about the bills, Sen. Markey is quoted as stating,

“While artificial intelligence holds the promise of providing goods and services more efficiently and effectively, increased automation has potentially broad negative impacts on our workforce and our privacy[.] This bill serves as an important step in bringing together all stakeholders to better understand how this new technology will impact our lives.”

Under the bills, stakeholders would be brought together by requiring the Department of Commerce to establish a 19-member Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) on the Development and Implementation of Artificial Intelligence. The FAC would be comprised of a geographically diverse group of members from various backgrounds including academia and private industry, along with members from labor organizations and civil society – including members from groups advocating for civil rights.

The FAC would be expected to study issues related to artificial intelligence and would also provide relevant advice including a formal report to the Secretary of Commerce and Congress with recommendations on potential administrative or legislative action relating to artificial intelligence. Included in the FAC’s priorities would be the development of guidance or recommendations on four policy objectives identified in the bills, being:

(A) to promote a climate of investment and innovation to ensure the global competitiveness of the United States;

(B) to optimize the development of artificial intelligence to address the potential growth, restructuring, or other changes in the United States workforce that results from the development of artificial intelligence;

(C) to promote and support the unbiased development and application of artificial intelligence; and

(D) to protect the privacy rights of individuals.

Notably, the bills attempt to create a legal definition of artificial intelligence. This is both interesting and important because there is no widely-accepted legal definition of artificial intelligence, and there needs to be one before there is any effort to institute regulation. The bills attempt to define artificial intelligence as:

(A) Any artificial systems that perform tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances, without significant human oversight, or that can learn from their experience and improve their performance. Such systems may be developed in computer software, physical hardware, or other contexts not yet contemplated. They may solve tasks requiring human-like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication, or physical action. In general, the more human-like the system within the context of its tasks, the more it can be said to use artificial intelligence.

(B) Systems that think like humans, such as cognitive architectures and neural networks.

(C) Systems that act like humans, such as systems that can pass the Turing test or other comparable test via natural language processing, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and learning.

(D) A set of techniques, including machine learning, that seek to approximate some cognitive task.

(E) Systems that act rationally, such as intelligent software agents and embodied robots that achieve goals via perception, planning, reasoning, learning, communicating, decision making, and acting.

The bills also delineate between artificial general intelligence versus narrow artificial intelligence. The bills define artificial general intelligence as a “notional future” system, whereas narrow artificial intelligence is defined as a presently-existing system. This suggests that Congress is well-informed as to the state of artificial intelligence today and is deciding to take a pragmatic approach. It is no surprise then to learn that the bills were introduced the same day that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet held a hearing with a panel of witnesses providing testimony on the current state of artificial intelligence technology.

The bills have both been referred to various committees in both the House and the Senate, so there promises to be further discussion about a possible federal advisory committee focused on artificial intelligence. Do you think that the United States needs such an advisory committee? Should the government do more or less when it comes to the development of artificial intelligence technologies? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.