Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad word that can refer to a variety of technologies, techniques, and application areas, including robots, natural language processing, facial recognition, and computerized systems that act and react in ways that are typically assumed to require intelligence. The term “artificial intelligence” was first used in the 1950s, and since then there have been alternating periods of rapid advancement and stagnation.
Generative AI (GenAI), which refers to machine learning (ML) models generated through training on massive amounts of data in order to generate content, has been a major area of recent advancement. The underlying models have seen technological advances since 2017, and the public release of these tools in late 2022 has resulted in broad adoption.
GenAI tools’ underlying models have been referred to as “general-purpose AI,” which means they can be modified to do a variety of downstream tasks. These developments and the wide range of applications for AI technology have reignited discussions about proper applications and limitations, notably in the fields of national security, education, and health care.
GenAI tools, an example of an AI technology, provide several potential advantages, including the ability to speed up and provide insights into data processing, support human decision-making, and optimize performance for intricate systems and jobs. For instance, GenAI systems are getting better at a variety of tasks like text analysis, image creation, and speech recognition.
However, AI systems frequently rely on such enormous amounts of data and other resources that they are not widely accessible for research, development, and commercialization outside of a small number of technology companies. They may also not yet be able to fully explain their decision-making.
Over the course of the last few Congresses, a number of federal laws addressing AI have been passed, either as stand-alone laws or as AI-specific components in larger statutes. One of these is the comprehensive National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020 (Division E of P.L. 116-283), which set guidelines for federal science agencies’ AI research, development, and assessment efforts and established an American AI Initiative. Additional laws, such as the AI in Government Act of 2020, P.L. 116-260, and the Advancing American AI Act, Subtitle B of P.L. 117-263, have mandated that certain agencies carry out initiatives to direct AI programs and policies across the federal government. At least 75 measures with an AI/ML focus or provisions with an AI/ML focus were introduced in the 117th Congress. Six of them saw implementation.
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At least 40 legislation that either focused on AI/ML or featured provisions that focused on AI/ML had been proposed in the 118th Congress as of June 2023, but none of them had been passed. The 118th Congress’s legislation covers a wide range of issues, including oversight of artificial intelligence by the federal government, training for federal employees, disclosure of AI use, export restrictions, use-specific bans, and support for the application of AI in specific fields like cybersecurity, weather modeling, wildfire detection, precision agriculture, and airport safety.
The question of whether and how to govern AI technologies is one of the main issues up for discussion both domestically and internationally. The proposed Artificial Intelligence Act of the European Union would, in general, base regulatory requirements and restrictions for certain uses on a risk-based approach.
Prior legislation in the US aimed to mandate impact analyses and reporting for automated decision systems, including but not limited to AI systems, in crucial domains (such as health care, employment, and criminal justice). A sector-specific strategy with interagency coordination has been offered by several perspectives on AI regulation.
Congress may have a general worry about how to handle efforts to regulate AI in a way that strikes a balance between encouraging innovation and positive uses while reducing immediate and long-term dangers.
The 118th Congress may also want to think about whether the federal government’s current oversight and policymaking mechanisms are adequate for AI, the federal government’s role in funding AI research and development, the potential effects of AI on the workforce, the disclosure of AI use, testing and validating AI systems, and potential strategies for promoting the development of trustworthy and responsible AI.