CES: Panel Reveals Surprising Statistics on Perceptions of AI

CES 2022 featured a compelling session that focused on “Artificial Intelligence: Expectations, Rules and Achievement,” which began with introductory remarks by Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) who questioned whether the federal government had AI experts who understood the innovations. “These are disruptive technologies,” she said. “What will it do to our healthcare system? With autonomous vehicles, do we have the relevant policies in place for government and insurance companies?” She also worried about competition in the space. This jump-started a panel discussion on the numerous opinions involving AI.

“How can we as policymakers allow the type of competition that we need to encourage entrepreneurism, innovation and growth without the outcome being swallowed up by larger companies where innovation may be suppressed?” she asked. “What’s the right amount of regulation and how do we fund it?

Panelist Peter Brown, senior adviser on technology policy at the European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington, D.C., noted that “the biggest thing that standards bring to the table is certainty and predictability.” He gave the example that the term “autonomous” has a strict and exacting definition in Germany that is quite different from other regions.

“Having clarity on basic concepts and terms that develops through the standards-making process allows industry, legislators, regulators, public interest groups and other concerned parties to work together more productively,” he said.

At SeedAI, a nonprofit for community-driven AI policy, founder and president Austin Carson revealed that his organization commissioned Morning Consult to conduct a study of public sentiments around AI. He shared the results, which he found surprising.

First, Americans’ No. 1 concern is AI’s hackability, not a loss of autonomy. Across the ideological spectrum, 59 percent of liberals, 51 percent of moderates and 49 percent of conservatives were more likely to approve of their Congressperson if he/she was committed to investing in AI job training in their community — and 22 percent of Republicans said the same thing about President Biden.

The report also stated that about 75 percent of Millennials, 75 percent of GenXers and 61 percent of Boomers would want to learn about AI if there were job opportunities in their local community. Also, “nearly half of adults said that if the U.S. were to invest in developing AI technology, training workers for AI jobs, or educating students on how to use the technology they would be less worried about the hackability, loss of agency, and other concerns.”

Last, about two-thirds of adults believe that private companies as well as state and federal governments should work to ensure that AI is safe and trustworthy.

Accenture spokesperson Dr. Teresa Tang said that, for the private sector, AI is “just another product — similar to making software.” To make it work at scale, we need deadlock testing of AI, from proofs of concept all the way to production, she said. “You can watch if your model is drifting and un-deploy models that aren’t working.”

Brown is working on the EU’s pending AI Act. He reports that, after widespread consultation, the draft appeared in April — but it still has a long path to go from its proposal status to a law. “Parliament is very conscious that AI legislation is as big as GDPR in terms of scope,” he said. “There is a high degree of anxiety and the breadth of opinions is overwhelming.”

Currently, Brown reported they are studying “the hierarchy of technologies that ought to be banned from use, those that need to be regulated and others that are less risky and businesses can be trusted to follow certain principles.” But, he said, there is no consensus yet. As to whether the EU hopes its AI Act will be a model for the U.S., similar to the GDPR, Brown said, “if you want to rein in the bad guys, be careful what you are aiming for.”

“Those with the economies of scale will be the first to market,” he said. “With GDPR, it was the smaller businesses that got hit the worst because they didn’t have the resources.”

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