‘AI needs guardrails’: Tech experts brief Congress on risks, benefits of artificial intelligence

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From advancing manufacturing to transforming our cars and appliances, nearly every sector of society is impacted by artificial intelligence.


This week, members of congress heard from tech experts on the potential risks and benefits of AI systems.

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“The truth is, AI systems are not magic,” Professor of Computer Science and Data at Brown University Dr. Suresh Venkatasubramanian testified at a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing Wednesday. “AI is technology, and like any other piece of technology that has benefited us - drugs, cars, planes- AI needs guardrails.”

Other experts warned about the failures of AI systems that can lead to people being unfairly denied access to housing, employment or other government systems.

Many employers also use artificial intelligence now to screen multiple resumes at once.

However, if the data used to train the AI system is not representative of different races and genders, it could lead to bias and unfair results.

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Lawmakers this week listened to some real-world examples.

“Hiring tools that systematically downrated women’s resumes, or an automated video interview system where a reporter gave answers in German and yet was still found to be a 73-percent match for the company,” President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology Alexandra Reeve Givens testified.

Tech privacy advocates called on Congress to pass laws that provide clear guidance about how and when to use AI, for both government agencies and for the private sector.

“The idea of governance in AI, it’s an important part of the process of determining what is it we want out of these algorithms we’re deploying,” Dr. Venkatasubramanian said. “Oftentimes, we don’t ask that question.”

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It’s a question lawmakers are now weighing as they determine the role Congress should play in making sure AI systems are fair for everyone.

The witnesses also called on Congress to make sure small businesses and agencies that don’t have much tech experience know how to use artificial intelligence.

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