Rep. Ted Lieu wants a federal agency to oversee AI, saying the technology ‘has caused harm’

Rep. Ted Lieu wants a federal agency to oversee AI, saying the technology ‘has caused harm’

California Democrat Ted Lieu is pushing for a federal agency to oversee artificial intelligence before it ensnares and deceives humanity.

In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, Rep. Lieu argues that AI presents both the best and worst technology has to offer, and that its impact on society will be significant.

“A.I. has caused harm,” wrote Lieu, a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in computer science. “Some of the harm is merely disruptive. Teachers (and newspaper editors) might find it increasingly difficult to determine if a written document was created by A.I. or a human. Deep fake technology can create videos and photographs that look real.”

But sometimes the consequences can be deadly, Lieu said, pointing to Tesla Inc.’s
“full self-serving” AI feature that apparently malfunctioned in a car in San Francisco late last year, leading to a multivehicle accident that injured nine people. He also pointed to AI algorithms in social media that have “helped radicalize foreign terrorists and domestic white supremacists” as well as facial-recognition systems used by law enforcement that could lead to the misidentification of innocent people, especially nonwhite people.

AI is ubiquitous, found in everything from smart speakers to Google Maps to Tesla’s self-driving cars to ChatGPT, an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI that received a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft Corp.
on Monday.

Read more: Opinion: Microsoft’s big move in AI does not mean it will challenge Google in search

An agency dedicated to AI is necessary, Lieu said, because a divided Congress is “simply incapable of passing legislation that can regulate AI. The technology moves too fast, and legislators lack the necessary knowledge to set laws and guidelines.”

Last year, Lieu introduced legislation to regulate the use of facial-recognition systems by law enforcement. But it took Lieu and his staff more than two years working with privacy and technology experts to craft the legislation, and it will take more time to build the coalition of support necessary to get it passed, he said.

But in advocating for a department, Lieu might find the federal government in a similar predicament. Such an agency, privacy and tech observers contend, would require tech-savvy personnel and funding to get off the ground, particularly in a congressional session that is expected to be beset by rancor and partisanship.

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