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AI issues to watch in 2024

Jan 4, 2024
Illustration of a US Capitol dome made out of binary code.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There's a lot to tackle in Congress and across the federal government around artificial intelligence this year.

Why it matters: How the U.S. government uses and regulates AI will provide a map for the rest of the country and Congress, and lawmakers have a ton of work to do to make good on the goals of last year's Senate AI Insight Forums.

Yes, but: Let's ease into the year — Congress isn't even back in town yet. Here are the AI issues we're watching on the Hill and across the federal government:

Senate leaders moving ahead on AI bills: We expect the action to be in committees, marking up and passing bills based on discussions at the AI Insight Forums.

  • We anticipate a lot of work is going to be redone or duplicated at the committee level. There will be disagreements over which bills to try to pass first, whether any individual issue is worth a standalone bill or if any AI legislation should be part of a larger package.
  • The Senate also has to figure out where the House is on AI and whether they can find agreement. House Speaker Mike Johnson, focused on the southern border, hasn't exactly said AI is a priority for him.

AI + copyright: The New York Times suing OpenAI last month is sure to reignite this conversation, which already had a lot of momentum.

  • So far, AI companies' use of copyrighted material has operated in a sort of "ask for forgiveness, not permission" mode.
  • That's likely to change at least to an extent, and it's an easy mark for lawmakers because protecting the copyright of original works is not a new debate.

AI + elections: The 2024 election is quickly approaching, and lawmakers are not going to want to see themselves deepfaked into oblivion by election ads.

  • More broadly, democracy watchers are arguing that AI could tip an already precarious electorate into not believing anything it sees.
  • The Federal Election Commission could act on AI in elections and make new rules, but that's not guaranteed.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said an AI and elections bill will be prioritized this year.
  • We'll be watching, but history shows that bills having to do with elections and social media or tech usually result in industry self-governance instead (the Honest Ads Act, anyone?).

AI + the federal government: The government is slowly complying with parts of President Biden's AI executive order.

  • In late December, the Office of Personnel Management issued a memorandum on government-wide hiring authorities per the EO, allowing for more flexibility to hire AI experts for positions supporting implementation.
  • Getting AI talent to work for the government instead of the much more lucrative private sector is a major hurdle, so we'll be watching to see who joins the feds and how quickly the government can staff up to carry out the EO.
  • It's also likelythat Congress will want a say in how the government uses AI.
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