Chuck Schumer and bipartisan group of senators unveil plan to control AI – while investing billions of dollars in it

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Federal legislation to govern artificial intelligence took another step closer to reality on Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with a bipartisan trio of senators, announced a sprawling blueprint to shape how congressional committees tackle the technology in forthcoming bills.

The 31-page roadmap released this week calls for billions of dollars in government spending to accelerate AI research and development, reflecting earlier commitments by Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and the so-called “AI gang” to prioritize US innovation in an intensely competitive field.

It also instructs multiple Senate committees to come up with guardrails for AI to address some of its biggest risks, such as AI-enabled discrimination, job displacement and election interference.

“Harnessing the potential of AI demands an all-hands-on-deck approach and that’s exactly what our bipartisan AI working group has been leading,” Schumer said Wednesday.

Some of the document’s proposals reflect longstanding congressional goals, such as the creation of a national data privacy law that gives consumers more control over their personal information and which could help regulate AI companies’ use of such data.

Others appear modeled after legislation adopted by the European Union, such as a proposed ban on the use of AI for social scoring systems akin to those implemented by the Chinese government.

And it urges congressional committees to develop coherent policies for when and how to impose export controls on “powerful AI systems” — or for designating certain AI models as classified for national security purposes.

The roadmap endorses a recommendation to allocate at least $32 billion a year, or at least 1% of US GDP, on AI research and development, a proposal issued in a 2021 report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

The organizing plan developed over months of meetings and listening sessions with top tech companies, civil rights leaders, labor unions and intellectual property holders. And it seeks to reinvigorate a legislative push that began last year, after Schumer took a personal role in spearheading the effort along with New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana.

“This roadmap represents the most comprehensive and impactful bipartisan recommendations on artificial intelligence ever issued by the legislative branch,” Young said Wednesday.

The latest plan highlights how Senate leaders are trying to move from a learning phase to an action phase, by issuing assignments to committees to craft legislation that may be passed piecemeal. Schumer has previously said that with the 2024 elections fast approaching, he may make it a top priority to pass legislation aimed at protecting the elections from AI-driven interference.

Schumer has described regulating artificial intelligence as a challenge for Congress unlike any other, vowing a swift timeline measured in months, not years. But policy analysts, and some congressional aides, doubt whether Congress can pass significant legislation regulating AI in an election year.

Meanwhile, the European Union has surged ahead with AI regulation, giving final approval in March to the trading bloc’s landmark EU AI Act that bans certain AI applications altogether and imposes significant restrictions on others deemed to be “high-risk.”

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