When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced a “major effort” in April to put the Senate’s imprint on artificial intelligence policy, he talked about having an “urgency to act” and said a legislative plan would start taking shape in a matter of weeks.
“In the coming weeks, Leader Schumer plans to refine the proposal in conjunction with stakeholders from academia, advocacy organizations, industry, and the government,” he said in an April 13 statement.
But on Thursday, more than two months later, Schumer indicated that legislation may not be ready until 2024. In Wednesday remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Schumer said the process of getting input for the plan is still months away.
“Later this fall, I will convene the top minds in artificial intelligence here in Congress for a series of AI Insight Forums to lay down a new foundation for AI policy,” he said. Schumer said developers, scientists, CEOs, national security experts and others must do “years of work in a matter of months,” a sign the effort could go well into next year.
He said once this input is collected, it will be up to legislators to listen and translate their ideas into legislation. He outlined a broad range of issues to cover, including how to protect innovation, intellectual property rights, risk management, national security, guarding against “doomsday scenarios,” transparency, “explainability” and privacy.
Making the job even more difficult, Schumer said bipartisan support is critical to the effort and said several committees will be expected to chip in.
Schumer this week announced what he called the SAFE Innovation Framework for AI, which is aimed at protecting U.S. innovation in this emerging field but ensuring there are guardrails to ensure security, promote accountability, support human liberty, civil rights and justice, and guarantee that AI outputs can be explained to users.
But Schumer laid out similar goals in April when he talked about the need to inform users, reduce the potential harm caused by AI outputs and make sure AI systems line up with “American values.”
Jake Denton, a technology policy research associate at the Heritage Foundation, said he sees Schumer’s recent announcement mostly as a sign that the process hasn’t gotten very far yet.
“The goalpost seems to keep moving,” Denton told Fox News Digital. “We never really get the bill text. We never get the details.”
Schumer’s office declined to comment for this story.
Denton said the basic principles that Schumer has outlined twice now are broadly accepted ideas, but he said the trick will be turning them into legislation. Several ideas have bounced around Capitol Hill – including a commission to guide AI policy or even a new agency that could license AI technology and ensure it produces outputs that are free of bias or discrimination.
Denton said it’s possible that Congress is still months or even years away from passing significant legislation to regulate AI based on its current pace. He said the precedent is there, as Congress has allowed other technology to flourish before stepping in.
“Our lawmakers are still in the process of trying to figure out how to handle social media,” he noted.
While the effort could easily drift into next year, Schumer said this proposal is the most efficient path forward to get a congressional regulatory plan in place.
“If we take the typical path – holding congressional hearings with opening statements and each member asking questions five minutes at a time on different issues – we simply won’t be able to come up with the right policies,” he said.
“By the time we act, AI will have evolved into something new,” he added. “This will not do. A new approach is required.”