Congress’s attempts to regulate technology seem to be in a bit of a mess. It has already held at least 10 hearings across eight different committees and subcommittees about artificial intelligence since March.
While the House Science Committee explored the latest innovations in the domain of AI tech and the Senate Armed Services Committee considered the application of AI in defense, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The main reason for Congress’s failure to regulate technology is that it doesn’t have a committee dedicated solely to the purpose.
Tech isn’t under the exclusive jurisdiction of other relevant committees such as the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law or the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology either.
Why Is The Lack Of a Dedicated Committee Making AI Regulation a Challenge?
Following the structure of Congress, every bill must pass through the respective committee before the Senate or the House Floor votes on it. The legislative process is carried forward behind the scenes, with the committees holding hearings, markups, and briefings that teach their members about policy and help them deliberate and identify partners.
Through committees, members of Congress can investigate problems, hold hearings, and develop legislation in their respective fields.
Without a committee dedicated to technology, Congress is simply ill-prepared to tackle the misuse of AI. It’s much more difficult to get the desired results since things can be lost between jurisdictional cracks due to the lack of suitable structure and necessary resources.
Not only does Congress not have a dedicated community, but it also lacks experts on the latest AI developments and tech policy.
Such experts could have otherwise advised members who aren’t so tech-savvy or knowledgeable on these matters. Congress is pretty low on staff – in fact, several thousand fewer than in the 1980s.
All these factors have contributed to Congress’s failed attempts to regulate technology. Without the necessary expertise, resources, and structure, it grapples blindly for ways to put the reins on AI developments.
How Can Congress Face the Challenge?
While Congress is currently poorly equipped to deal with AI and other technologies, things can still change. One of the most obvious solutions is to form a dedicated community on technology led by tech experts in every chamber.
The numerous issues surrounding AI could be channeled into a series of connected hearings and legislative efforts by the dedicated technology committee.
Just like other committees having broad jurisdiction over the respective aspects of American life, the tech committee would focus on AI, social media, content moderation, broadband access, etc. While this might seem pretty straightforward on paper, existing committees might resist it since reallocating committee jurisdictions involves the relocation of power.
Congress could initially start by building up existing support agencies, such as the Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics Division (STAA), under the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
It has already written multiple reports on the potential dangers and different applications of AI. At a time when Congress is struggling with inadequate manpower and expertise, agencies like GAO can act as reliable sources of education for its members and staff.