Continuing Forward: Senate Leaders Release an AI Policy Roadmap

The US Senate’s Bipartisan AI Policy Roadmap is a highly anticipated document expected to shape the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in the United States over the next decade. This comprehensive guide, which complements the AI research, investigations, and hearings conducted by Senate committees during the 118th Congress, identifies areas of consensus that could help policymakers establish the ground rules for AI use and development across various sectors.

From intellectual property reforms and substantial funding for AI research to sector-specific rules and transparent model testing, the roadmap addresses a wide range of AI-related issues. Despite the long-awaited arrival of the AI roadmap, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate and key architect of the high-level document, is expected to strongly defer to Senate committees to continue drafting individual bills impacting the future of AI policy in the United States.

The Senate’s bipartisan roadmap is the culmination of a series of nine forums held last year by the same group, during which they gathered diverse perspectives and information on AI technology. Topics of the forums included:

  1. Inaugural Forum
  2. Supporting US Innovation in AI
  3. AI and the Workforce
  4. High Impact Uses of AI
  5. Elections and Democracy
  6. Privacy and Liability
  7. Transparency, Explainability, Intellectual Property, and Copyright
  8. Safeguarding
  9. National Security

The wide range of views and concerns expressed by over 150 experts including developers, startups, hardware and software companies, civil rights groups, and academia during these forums helped policymakers develop a thorough and inclusive document that reveals the areas of consensus and disagreement. As the 118th Congress continues, it’s expected that Sen. Schumer will reach out to his counterparts in the US House of Representatives to determine the common areas of interest. Those bipartisan and bicameral conversations will ultimately help Congress establish the foundational rules for AI use and development, potentially shaping not only the future of AI in the United States but also influencing global AI policy.

The final text of this guiding document focuses on several high-level categories. Below, we highlight a handful of notable provisions:

Publicity Rights (Name, Image, and Likeness)

The roadmap encourages senators to consider whether there is a need for legislation that would protect against the unauthorized use of one’s name, image, likeness, and voice, as it relates to AI. While state laws have traditionally recognized the right of individuals to control the commercial use of their so-called “publicity rights,” federal recognition of those rights would mark a major shift in intellectual property law and make it easier for musicians, celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures to prevent or discourage the unauthorized use of their publicity rights in the context of AI.

Disclosure and Transparency Requirements

Noting that the “black box” nature of some AI systems can make it difficult to assess compliance with existing consumer protection and civil rights laws, the roadmap encourages lawmakers to ensure that regulators are able to access information directly relevant to enforcing those laws and, if necessary, place appropriate transparency and “explainability” requirements on “high risk” uses of AI. The working group does not offer a definition of “high risk” use cases, but suggests that systems implicating constitutional rights, public safety, or anti-discrimination laws could be forced to disclose information about their training data and factors that influence automated or algorithmic decision making. The roadmap also encourages the development of best practices for when AI users should disclose that their products utilize AI, and whether developers should be required to disclose information to the public about the data sets used to train their AI models.

The document also pushes senators to develop sector-specific rules for AI use in areas such as housing, health care, education, financial services, news and journalism, and content creation.

Increased Funding for AI Innovation

On the heels of the findings included in the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) final report, the roadmap encourages Senate appropriators to provide at least $32 billion for AI research funding at federal agencies, including the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This request for a substantial investment underscores the government’s commitment to advancing AI technology and seeks to position federal agencies as “AI ready.” The roadmap’s innovation agenda includes funding the CHIPS and Science Act, support for semiconductor research and development to create high-end microchips, modernizing the federal government’s information technology infrastructure, and developing in-house supercomputing and AI capacity in the US Department of Defense.

Investments in National Defense

Many members of Congress believe that creating a national framework for AI will also help the United States compete on the global stage with China. Senators who see this as the 21st century space race believe investments in the defense and intelligence community’s AI capabilities are necessary to push back against China’s head start in AI development and deployment. The working group’s national security priorities include leveraging AI’s potential to build a digital armed services workforce, enhancing and accelerating the security clearance application process, blocking large language models from leaking intelligence or reconstructing classified information, and pushing back on perceived “censorship, repression, and surveillance” by Russia and China.

Addressing AI in Political Ads

Looking ahead to the 2024 election cycle, the roadmap’s authors are already paying attention to the threats posed by AI-generated election ads. The working group encourages digital content providers to watermark any political ads made with AI and include disclaimers in any AI-generated election content. These guardrails also align with the provisions of several bipartisan election-related AI bills that passed out of the Senate Rules Committee the same day of the roadmap’s release.

Privacy and Legal Liability for AI Usage

The AI Working Group recommends the passage of a federal data privacy law to protect personal information. The AI Working Group notes that the legislation should address issues related to data minimization, data security, consumer data rights, consent and disclosure, and the role of data brokers. Support for these principles is reflected in numerous state privacy laws enacted since 2018, and in bipartisan, bicameral draft legislation (the American Privacy Rights Act) supported by Rep. McMorris Rogers (D-WA), and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

As we await additional legislative activity later this year, it is clear that these guidelines will have far-reaching implications for the AI industry and society at large. We will continue to keep you updated on the latest developments and provide insights on how to navigate this evolving landscape.


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