What role should Congress play in regulating artificial intelligence?

AI is primed to quickly transform much of everyday life from jobs, the economy, homeland security and equity.

“The top concern is fear of job loss,” said Milan Kordestani, an entrepreneur in AI startups and author.

On Tuesday night, Kordestani will moderate a public roundtable with Maryland Democratic Rep. Glenn Ivey and Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions at the Capitol Visitor’s Center on “intricate waters” of AI.

In a WTOP interview, ahead of a 25-city tour, entitled “The Civil Conversations on AI Tour: From Economic Disruption to Social Stability,” Kordestani said public concerns about the technology require legislation by Congress.

“What we’re going to see with AI is a very quick transition in the job market,” Kordestani said. “The skills that a lot of people have aren’t going to be relevant any more,” he said, including that of computer scientists, who went to school to learn how to code.

“Now you can code in English,” Kordestani said.

Currently, Congress has not drafted any legislation that directly regulates or limits AI, he added.

“I think the greatest thing Congress could do right now is start to identify industries and people who are going to be at risk,” Kordestani said. “Once we can identify which jobs and industries are most at risk, we can start to look at what transition looks like for those people, and start to map that out.”

Some industries — for instance screenwriters — are already involved in negotiations to try to maintain job security.

“What previous data can be used to train an artificial intelligence model, so that people shouldn’t be displaced from work?” Kordestani said.

The nuts and bolts of AI are completed, Kordestani said, which means it can quickly disrupt the economy and society.

“It’s just a software. It’s not a cellphone, it’s not a car. It’s already on the devices you own, and I think it will be much faster than you’ve ever seen,” he said.

Other industries won’t feel the effects of AI immediately.

“The time it will take to automate humans out of factories is not going to be in the year 2023,” said Kordestani. “But in the next four or five years, it could be a huge change, where about 90% of that workplace is replaced.”

Kordestani said Congress can help provide stability, as uses for AI increase.

“I hope that the government is willing to put some sort of budget or programming in place to help people make those transitions, or to support people if they are let go or laid off from work, being replaced by AI,” said Kordestani. “I hope there’s some sort of unemployment or budget that’s allocated to people who are working toward transitioning to other industries.”

Mitigating potential risks of AI

After job loss, Kordestani said the biggest fear about the growing use of AI is the possibility of fraud.

“We’re approaching an election, and I think misinformation is increasing the speed at which people are able disseminate misinformation because of AI,” Kordestani said. “There’s a need for regulation from that perspective, as well.”

Kordestani said different systems of government are looking for ways to integrate AI, including law enforcement.

“A lot of these AI systems are still quite biased because it’s so early,” he said. “It’s still so early — the data that they’re being trained off of, we’re just now discovering the biases that these AIs can have.”

Preparing for the next generation workforce

Kordestani, who has interests in several different startups in the AI space, wants to make sure that Congress is looking toward the future with possible legislation.

“A lot of these conversations that are being had at the federal level are being had by government officials who have been in government a long time, or by technologists who are a little bit older,” Kordestani said. “For me, what’s really important is to make sure that Gen Z is represented in this conversation because we are the next generation workforce.”

“Our age demographic is people who were born between 1997 and 2012,” said Kordestani. “A generation that grew up with cellphones, and the internet; so it’s really important to see what the workforce is going to look like for us.”

Another role for Congress is ensuring infrastructures — including “having enough broadband and bandwidth for people to be able to use AI, and be able to build with AI.”

In addition, even many young people who grew up with smartphones and apps aren’t clear on how AI has access to their locations or other personal information.

“Government should be ensuring that everyone in America sees that technical literacy is almost a right, like reading and writing, and we have to teach this in school,” Kordestani said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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