Artificial Intelligence

AI’s Innovative Advances Raise Ethical and Legal Considerations

Stanford computer scientist John McCarthy defined Artificial Intelligence (AI), in part, as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.” In Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, AI is further defined by four potential goals or definitions, differentiating computer systems based on rationality and thinking vs. acting. AI is also subject to classifications. Strong artificial intelligence refers to machines that perform multiple cognitive tasks like humans but at a very rapid pace (machine speed); in contrast, weak or narrow artificial intelligence refers to artificial intelligence that performs primarily one task. Despite these various definitions or classifications, AI is associated with innovative advances that many businesses have incorporated into their products or services; however, there are growing issues regarding AI.

According to the Pew Research Center, surveyed individuals expressed several concerns regarding AI ranging from the overexposure of individuals to cybercrime to the impact on populous intelligence, including the loss of jobs. Another primary concern is the emergence of super-intelligent machines that fail to align with human values and safety. Hence, AI can have an alter ego that fails to advance or benefit society, warranting additional precautions similar to those employed for trade secrets by businesses that facilitate AI. In the Radiolab podcast, 40,000 Recipes for MurderCollaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a North Carolina drug manufacturer, discussed how it found its AI, which discovers medicines for rare diseases, could develop potent chemical weapons known to humankind through a modification of its code. The company published its findings in an article called, Dual Use of Artificial-Intelligence-Powered Drug Discovery “to raise concerns for those companies or individuals that may not have that ethical check in place” about AI-related harms. 

State legislatures have also viewed the benefits and challenges of AI and have proposed or enacted new laws that specifically address AI concerns. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 17 states in 2022 enacted AI legislation bills. While the legislation is general, it reflects the scope of this matter. In California,  AB 2273 enacted the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act. The law “authorizes the Attorney General to seek an injunction or civil penalty against any business that violates” its provisions. Violators can be held “liable for a civil penalty of not more than a specified date per affected child for each negligent violation or not more than a specified date per affected child for each intentional violation.” Colorado enacted SB 113, which created “a task force for consideration of facial recognition services, which is directed, among other issues, to recommend whether the scope of the task force should be expanded to include consideration of artificial intelligence.” The state of Illinois enacted two laws: HB 53, which “amends the Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act, provides that employers that rely solely upon artificial intelligence to determine whether an applicant will qualify for an in-person interview must gather and report certain demographic information to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity,” and also “requires the Department to analyze the data and report to the Governor and General Assembly whether the data discloses a racial bias in the use of artificial intelligence. “HB 645, creating “the Future of Work Act, creates the Future of Work Task Force.” Vermont created the Artificial Intelligence Commission in HB 410 to support the ethical use and development of artificial intelligence within the state as it “relates to the use and oversight of artificial intelligence in State government.” Washington state adopted SB 5092, which makes 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating appropriations, include appropriations solely “for the office of the chief information officer to convene a work group to examine how automated decision-making systems can best be reviewed before adoption and while in operation and be periodically audited to ensure that such systems are fair, transparent, accountable and do not improperly advantage or disadvantage Washington residents” as well as WA SB 5693, which “makes 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating appropriations, including appropriations solely for the office of the chief information officer to create a work group to examine how automated decision-making systems can best be reviewed before adoption and while in operation and be periodically audited to ensure that such systems are fair, transparent, accountable and do not improperly advantage or disadvantage Washington residents.”  

While there have been enactments, many legislative bills relating to AI failed or are pending review. For further discussion on AI general legislation, see the National Conference of State Legislatures; for additional AI discussions, see, The History of Artificial Intelligence.