Artificial intelligence has been the stuff of science fiction books and movies — until now. The term AI, which includes a range of technologies, is mentioned almost daily. It’s been portrayed as both an existential threat and a historic advancement for the world. Without much action happening in Congress, state legislatures across the country are attempting to get a handle on AI, determine the prevalence of the technology and come up with safeguards that won’t throttle innovation.
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SEE WHAT STATES ARE DOING
States are looking at the AI issue from different angles. Many have created special task forces and advisory committees over the past couple years to come up with recommendations for bills or at least give lawmakers a clearer picture of how the technology is being used within their states and by their state agencies. For example, Texas, North Dakota, West Virginia and Puerto Rico this year created councils that will study and monitor AI systems developed and used by agencies.
Connecticut passed legislation this year that requires its Department of Administrative Services to take an inventory of all systems that employ artificial intelligence within state government. Beginning Feb. 1, 2024, state officials will conduct continuing assessments of those systems to ensure they don’t lead to discrimination against people for things like Medicaid and other government benefits.
Elsewhere in the country, state lawmakers are focusing on regulating specific AI technologies, such as facial recognition and driverless cars.
Legislators in several states, including Connecticut, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Minnesota, are planning to work together this fall on model legislation they can all use that includes common definitions of terms. It’s also expected to includes broad guardrails on AI in the private section, focusing on matters such product liability and required impact assessments.
LOCALIZING THE STORY
— Reporters can learn where things stand with artificial intelligence legislation proposed in their state by checking with the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL has created a list of bills proposed during the 2023 legislative session that address AI generally. The list, updated as of July 20, 2023, is searchable by state (scroll to the dropdown menu).
— Some states have created or are considering creating task forces and advisory bodies that reporters can track. What aspects of AI are these entities most concerned about? Do they know if — and to what extent — state agencies are already using AI?
— Are local advocacy groups in your area, such as the ACLU, concerned about possible discrimination people may face due to AI tools such as resume scanners and video interviewing software that measures a person’s speech patterns and facial expressions. AI has been used to help government workers determine things like welfare benefit eligibility, bail, affordable housing eligibility or which schools children are assigned to.
— What kind of protections for consumers are lawmakers considering in your state? In California, legislation proposed this year would require an “impact assessment” be done by users of AI tools that make or help make decisions. That assessment would include potential adverse impacts on the basis of sex, race, age, ethnicity, national origin, disability, limited English proficiency or genetic information. North Dakota passed a bill this year defining what a person is, making it clear the term does not include artificial intelligence.
— How are local governments in your area incorporating AI tools? The National League of Cities is holding a webinar on Aug. 10 to discuss the potential benefits and risks to municipalities.
AI can be shorthand for many different technologies, ranging from algorithms recommending what to watch next on Netflix to “generative AI” systems such as ChatGPT that can aid in writing or create new images or other media. The surge of commercial investment in generative AI tools has brought both public fascination and concerns about their ability to trick people and spread disinformation, among other dangers.
Find AP Stylebook tips on coverage and terminology in its section about reporting on artificial intelligence.
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