Business officials urged the US Congress to play a more active role in regulating artificial intelligence (AI) usage in the workplace. Their call underscored the need for federal government intervention to manage the risks and disruptions posed by AI, as well as to avoid the confusion arising from non-uniform laws across different states.
AI regulations based on risk levels
Brad Newman, a partner at international law firm Baker McKenzie who heads the firm's AI practice, voiced his concerns in front of a Senate panel. Newman, who typically opposes regulation, believes that the federal government should responsibly and prudently act in the case of AI. He urged Congress to set regulatory measures for AI technology based on their level of risk to Americans. This sentiment resonated with many in the industry and advocacy groups who have been calling for federal oversight and regulation in the field of AI.
Federal funding for AI-induced displacement
Newman also highlighted the need for federal funding to provide training for the workforce and support for individuals who might be displaced due to AI integration in various industries. He warned that the dislocation caused by AI could be more significant than anything we've seen before. AI automation, Newman predicted, could significantly reduce the staffing needs of law firms, leading to fewer lawyers. While he hinted that this might be a good thing, he stressed that support for those affected should be a priority.
As states and local governments start to legislate AI usage, particularly in hiring and employment decisions, Newman expressed concerns over the lack of uniformity in these laws. He voiced fears that this patchwork of varying laws could lead to confusion and potentially stifle innovation in the field of AI. For instance, New York City recently passed a law requiring employers to conduct an independent audit review for bias in their automated hiring software—a regulation that isn't uniformly enforced across all states.
Sen. John Hickenlooper, chair of the employment and workplace safety subcommittee, sought to dispel fears about AI replacing humans in the workforce. Instead, Hickenlooper emphasized that AI will work in tandem with the workforce, and that the focus should be on training and educating workers to adapt to the changing environment. His comments were supported by Mary Kate Morley Ryan, Accenture's Managing Director of Talent and Organization, who argued that AI would enhance workers' abilities rather than replacing them.
Balancing risks and benefits in AI regulation
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is leading the push for a regulatory response that addresses the risks of AI, including job displacement and discrimination, while promoting its potential benefits across various industries such as healthcare and education. Schumer is hosting forums featuring business and labor leaders to discuss regulation, supplementing the legislative process with Senate discussions on AI. He predicts that bipartisan legislation is at least several months away.