The recent meeting between executives from leading artificial intelligence (AI) companies and a bipartisan group of senior U.S. Senators highlights the growing attention and scrutiny that Washington is giving to AI technology. This increased focus on AI is evident in a presidential address, a voluntary agreement between the government and companies, and even the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission examining the implications of AI.
While the AI industry may see itself as distinct from the world of cryptocurrencies, there are lessons to be learned from the regulatory challenges faced by crypto assets. The AI industry needs to be prepared for scrutiny from a skeptical Congress that questions its motives and outputs. Lawmakers will assume that AI is up to no good unless proven otherwise.
Another factor to consider is the changing landscape of media consumption. Traditional media sources are weaker than ever, and more Americans rely on social media for news. This shift leaves the public vulnerable to rumor and disinformation, which can influence lawmakers’ policies. Just as the crypto industry has been held politically liable for the actions of a few bad actors, the AI industry may face similar consequences when machine learning produces sub-optimal outcomes, despite its statistical superiority over human-managed processes.
However, there is a critical difference between the challenges faced by the crypto industry and those that the AI industry will encounter. The crypto industry primarily sought to enter the highly regulated financial services sector, where entrenched policies pose significant barriers. In contrast, the AI industry aims to penetrate multiple sectors, some of which have less established regulation. This provides opportunities to outflank policymakers in certain areas. Nevertheless, the AI industry will face significant financial policy challenges, such as the potential systemic risks associated with using AI in the financial system.
To avoid a regulatory logjam, the AI industry must recognize its advantages and act quickly. Unlike crypto, policymakers have not yet reached definitive conclusions on how to regulate AI. It is crucial for the AI industry to engage in a substantial public affairs campaign that emphasizes the technology’s benefits to everyday Americans and positions it as the future of innovation in America. This approach should focus on winning the favor of the American people through campaigns in vital congressional districts and states, rather than solely targeting lawmakers in D.C.
The AI industry stands at a crossroads in Washington. It can choose to follow the same path as the crypto industry or take a different approach that may lead to a more favorable regulatory environment. The decisions made now will shape the future of AI regulation and its integration into American society.