Two lawmakers influential in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) policy said last week that educating the general public on the possibilities of the emerging technology is critical to ease anxiety, but first Congress needs to come out with a regulatory framework on the tool. 


“There needs to be robust effort to train the public on AI and ensure that tools are accessible not only to large companies but our small businesses as well,” Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., said during a Bipartisan Policy Center webinar on June 8.


“It’s important that we do this in an equitable manner, but I expect in 10 years hopefully AI will just be like turning on the TV – that people have gotten much more comfortable with it, much more educated about it,” she said. 


Rep. Kelly emphasized the idea of integrating technology – like AI – into school curriculums as early as Kindergarten so children can grow up and fill in the cyber workforce gaps.


Kelly said she and her colleagues have done a lot of work in exposing young people to different STEM careers – like cybersecurity and different emerging technologies so they will go into the profession.


“We try to get people involved and we do education and awareness because I think that’s one of the problems – that people don’t understand the positive capabilities or capacity of AI and they are afraid of losing jobs,” Rep. Kelly explained. 


Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., expressed the idea that AI is not something that will replace workers, but make them more productive. 


“Generative AI is going to be completely transformative in a lot of different workplaces. I think that it has the potential to be incredibly beneficial to humanity,” Rep. Obernolte said. “We’re going to see an explosion of not only productivity but in human prosperity but like any technological revolution it’s going to be extremely disruptive.” 


Rep. Obernolte said that an AI regulatory framework is currently something Congress is grappling with. The government wants to mitigate consumer harms, Obernolte said, but it also doesn’t want to prevent AI from providing its full range of benefits. 


“It’s a difficult role to play, but I think that we have enough people in Congress that are educated on this issue and that are motivated to try to craft a regulatory framework that makes sense,” he continued, adding, “I’m optimistic that we’re going to get it right.” 


The congressman says he hopes that in the next 10 years, lawmakers will establish a framework that unlocks the benefits of AI while guarding against the potential harms, but in the short-term, the Hill needs a concrete digital privacy law. 


“In the short term, I think we need to pass a digital privacy standard at the Federal level. That’s something that we have been working hard on in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Rep. Obernolte said. “I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to succeed in putting a bill on the House floor this year that accomplishes that.” 


He concluded, “If you look at the potential harms in the short term that malicious use of AI could lead to, the piercing of digital data privacy is among the foremost. So, this would be a meaningful step in the right direction, and I think should definitely be job one for Congress.” 

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