The report on AI and Ethics was released on August 25, 2020. (Source: Bipartisan Policy Center)

Forbes AI Columnist Says Bipartisan Oversight Efforts Fall Short

One of the most knowledgeable writers on the AI scene, David A. Teich, wrote a thought-provoking column in Forbes magazine recently about the failures of American politicians—even well-meaning ones in a bipartisan committee—to both grasp the importance of curbing AI’s unbridled use and to figure out exactly how to do that.

The irony is that the committee has no ax to grind, it’s just not quite up to the task, yet, and hasn’t integrated European ideas on how to handle AI.

“A recent webinar by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), on AI ethics, grounded in their release of a newly released report on the subject is a regression to the mean,” Teich writes. “It was a weak attempt to cover similar ground but missed a number of larger, more critical points; not to mention the bipartisanship showed some problems.”

A moderated presentation by two Congressional Representatives, Robin Kelly (Illinois, D) and Will Hurd (Texas, R) also demonstrated some insights into AI issues, but it lacked the punch needed to show that the legislators are working to prevent the problems that are already widespread, with AI discriminating against black people in police ID programs and against women in hiring programs.

“The best statement of the bipartisan nature of the AI issue was expressed by the moderator of the second, who pointed out that Congress doesn’t know enough about the issue to be partisan,” Teich writes.

Teich cites a book called “Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence,” by Darrell M. West and John R. Allen, of the Brookings Institution as a sign that even though it outlines issues that impact both governments and industry, it fails in pointing out that transparency is one of the greatest failures in how AI companies operate.

Taking a stand seems anathema to policymakers, possibly because of a desire to allow American tech companies to maintain their dominance in any way possible in the AI arena. But Teich is right that they are missing the opportunity to make AI work better and in a more positive way that protects American rights, privacy and ethical boundaries.

While the legislators were on the right track in saying that more money needs to be spent on research to follow the right course, they failed to note that Americans are behind the curve in education, particularly in AI, Teich says.

It’s a conundrum, and while a $1 billion shot in the arm by the government for American research was recently announced, it’s likely most of it will go to using AI for governmental functions, instead of establishing the framework for safe and responsible use of powerful technology and preparing for the mass loss of jobs predicted as more robotic systems and autonomous vehicles go online.