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Rep. John Delaney speaks during a Clinton County Democrats dinner in Welton, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate, sees the dawn of artificial intelligence as a net positive — as long as the government is prepared for it. "The cost of doing nothing is not nothing," he told Axios. "You pay a huge price if you fail to act around change."

Why you'll hear about this again: Delaney co-founded the congressional AI Caucus and has sponsored "Future of AI" legislation. He's a technology booster ("History tells us innovation is always positive," he said), but one thing he's not so optimistic about is technology's impact on children.

I think we can handle the future of work question. I worry much more about the situation with kids — the effect technology is having on their free and independent thinking. We saw this a little bit with the last election in a very crude way, that it did have an effect on people’s thinking... What we should be most concerned about is having a free society.
— Rep. John Delaney

The other side: Another early presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, takes a much more dystopian view of society's AI future — and that we're "in the third or fourth inning of automation" and that it's already causing social and economic decline.

Government's role: Delaney's bill, which has a companion bill in the Senate, would create a federal advisory committee to focus on key aspects of AI policy as it develops, from privacy issues to R&D investment.

  • "I'm not saying we have to regulate everything," he said. "We need to update the social contract with each new wave of change."
  • Delaney, the former CEO of two public companies, said government should be investing in the development of the next wave of technologies so it's not only in the hands of large companies with R&D budgets.
  • "Companies like Amazon and a few others have been blessed in terms of their ability to convince their shareholders that they can defer profits in the short term because they are making investments in the long term," he said. "That gives them a sizable advantage."
  • China, he noted, is increasing investment, while the U.S. is cutting basic research spending. That "leads you to a situation where you are likely to have less transformative innovation in the country other than inside of these companies who have the ability to do it."

Disruption for kids: He drew parallels with how consumer products used to bombard kids with unhealthy messages — whether it be about sugary cereals or cigarettes. Rules around disclosure and truth in advertising should be applied in the digital world, he said.

His bottom line: "I think innovation is totally net positive. We should be leaning into all this stuff. But that doesn't mean there's no role for society to draw some lines from time to time."

Go deeper

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.