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State Regulation of AI in the Spotlight at 2023 NCSL Legislative Summit

August 29, 2023 (4 min read)

More than 5,000 lawmakers and public policy professionals arrived from every state in the U.S. to attend the 48th annual National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) Legislative Summit, Aug. 14-16, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center.

The NCSL Legislative Summit is the nation’s largest gathering of state lawmakers and legislative staff, providing a platform for legislators, staff and other public policy professionals to learn from experts — as well as each other — about solutions to the country’s most pressing state issues.

This year’s conference featured a number of nationally recognized speakers, including an address by former Vice President Mike Pence, and conference sessions in which participants were able to discuss timely public policy and governance subjects, engage in professional development opportunities and expand their networks.

The sessions that generated the most buzz at the 2023 NCSL Legislative Summit were those related to the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). Here are five key takeaways from those timely conference sessions:

Striking a regulatory balance with AI

While AI offers many exciting economic opportunities, many fear there will be a race to the bottom for AI if no regulatory guardrails are constructed. Proponents of regulatory frameworks raised a number of concerns regarding rapidly developing AI tools and virtually untested technology being deployed ubiquitously, without an understanding of potential negative or dangerous impacts. Opponents of regulation argue that self-governance must occur from within the private sector as any governmental oversight can stifle innovation and development. While views ranged at NCSL on the level of regulation that is necessary—or if any is warranted at all—most AI proponents agree some balance between the innovations of AI with basic human values must be achieved.

Companies should establish AI governance

Panelists of the “Artificial Intelligence: Are We Ready?” session—including James Maroney, Senate Deputy Majority Leader of Connecticut General Assembly; Chloe Autio, Director of Technology Public Policy and Applied AI Governance at Cantellus Group; and Diya Wynn, Senior Practice Manager-Responsible AI at Amazon Web Services—stipulated that companies need to consider AI governance if they want to leverage AI (e.g., use chatbots on their website). It is critical to be able to be able to catalog problems, define uses cases for the technology, develop policies and guardrails around risk, and create internal structures (e.g., review boards). Internal structures should be composed of diverse teams so that your technology is performant for all populations.

Lawmakers may consider using established foundations to draft AI policies

While the perfect balance between protecting data privacy and enabling the AI economy to thrive may seem unattainable, lawmakers choosing to approach regulatory frameworks will need guidance on how to construct policy, including sector-specific scoping, regulatory refinement, cross-cutting or data-focused interventions. Depending on how you count, there are 12 comprehensive state privacy laws covering approximately a third of the U.S. population, using the “Washington Privacy Act” Model, influenced by the GDPR and CCPA.

Crucial to protect consumers while promoting innovation

NCSL speakers generally agreed that, now that AI technology is commercially available, people will continue to use it—so restriction of AI use simply may not be effective in some circumstances. To that extent, panelists advised that lawmakers and regulators may be better-served to focus instead on education around responsible use, the development of consumer literacy for AI (particularly in the education sector), and regulations that make AI-enabled product development accountable by constructing guardrails around system failures. This might include regulations to ensure transparency in sources of information generated by AI and when interacting with AI systems with disclosures or digital watermarking. Experts also argued that it’s important to create the ability for consumers to appeal to human oversight if they are displeased by an interaction with an AI system.

Lawmakers should establish regulations that stand the test of time

The reality is that AI technology is constantly evolving and this rapid pace of innovation is not slowing down anytime soon. NCSL attendees agreed that lawmakers should focus on impacts and not technical details as the latter is changing so rapidly that to legislate around a specific technology would be fleeting and quickly made obsolete. The takeaway was that it is critical to understand what problem regulators are trying to solve from a system, data, process and human perspective.

With no federal data privacy or AI legislative enactments on the horizon, states are moving ahead to address these areas of concern on their own. Unfortunately, these legislative and regulatory measures are not consistent from one state to the next.

It is important that government affairs and corporate compliance professionals stay apprised of all proposed and adopted AI-related legislation and regulations with LexisNexis® State Net®. State Net is a legislative and regulatory tracking tool that tracks activity at all levels of government, delivering the information you need when you need it.

Professionals may also want to review Generative AI Has State Legislatures Rushing To Take Action and States Taking Lead on Regulating Data Privacy, recent publications from the State Net Capitol Journal™. Subscribe today to the State Net Capitol Journal and stay current on legislative and regulatory news.