Schumer Shares Plan for SAFE AI Senate Listening Sessions

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled his approach toward regulating artificial intelligence, beginning with nine listening sessions to explore topics including AI’s impact on the job market, copyright, national security and “doomsday scenarios.” Schumer’s plan — the SAFE (Security, Accountability, Foundations, Explainability) Innovation framework — isn’t proposed legislation, but a discovery roadmap. Set to begin in September, the panels will draw on members of industry, academia and civil society. “Experts aren’t even sure which questions policymakers should be asking,” said Schumer of the learning curve. “In many ways, we’re starting from scratch.”

The discussions, which may expand beyond the initial nine, will aim to inform Senate committee chairs and other engaged lawmakers in developing new bills for AI regulation. While there is bipartisan interest in legislating AI, The New York Times says Democrats “have called for a new federal agency to regulate AI, much like the Food and Drug Administration regulates the agricultural and medical industries.”

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) defends such an approach, saying “such a body could ‘provide the kind of expertise and oversight’ necessary to take on large technology companies, since ‘Congress is never going to do it on its own,’” writes NYT.

While the U.S. is currently lagging the EU in regulatory proposals, Schumer said it’s not too late to leapfrog to the fore. “If we can put this together in a very serious way, I think the rest of the world will follow and we can set the direction,” CNN quoted Schumer saying after his Wednesday address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“I don’t think any of the existing proposals have captured that imagination,” Schumer added.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament approved the European Union’s draft AI Act, which has been underway since early 2021. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate moved two tech bills involving AI, and the White House has escalated AI as a priority.

TIME said the “the part of Schumer’s framework which comes closest to making a concrete policy proposal, rather than setting a policy goal, is his call for explainability,” which would help with increasing AI transparency and identifying bias.

AI’s Use in Elections Sets Off a Scramble for Guardrails, The New York Times, 6/25/23
Zuckerberg, Altman Offer Support for EU Regulation of AI, Bloomberg, 6/23/23
U.S. to Launch Working Group on Generative AI, Address Its Risks, Reuters, 6/22/23

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