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Rounds on what's next for AI policy

Feb 29, 2024
Two people sit on white chairs in conversation

Axios' Ashley Gold and Sen. Mike Rounds. Photo: Hector Emanuel for Axios

The bipartisan Senate AI working group plans to issue a report next month so that committees can start looking at legislation, Sen. Mike Rounds said Wednesday at Axios' Responsible AI event.

The big picture: Rounds said the report will be a "profile of different ideas" shared with committee chairs and ranking members "to kind of lay out some ideas about what the different committees might want to take a look at."

State of play: "We're not so much telling everybody what to do, but what different areas of interest might be, and perhaps some pathways for consolidation for different committees," he said.

  • As an example, Rounds named the health care and finance committees potentially working together to figure out how to pay for AI innovations in health.
  • "The idea is to lay out very general guidelines … what we learned, what some recommendations are, some ideas for looking at different types of legislation."
  • "We want to invite the committees to get active."
  • Rounds also said he wants people to get excited: "I really think the American people have got to be shown that it's not all scary stuff and misinformation being put out by bad actors.… It's also quality-of-life improvements that AI can bring to our communities."

All Senate committees could end up being involved in crafting legislation, he said.

  • One surprising thing Rounds gleaned from the AI roundtables last fall? "There was an understanding across the board … that we have to be as good or better than anybody else in the world, and the reason for that is in the defense of our own country, we can leave nothing to chance."
  • Rounds also said the forums made him realize the importance of having individual privacy protections at the same time as having sophisticated datasets for AI to train on.

What's next: Asked if there would be an AI bill on the Senate floor before the presidential election, Rounds hedged:

  • "You very well may … but they will take different forms and they'll be attached to different types of products that are moving through the NDAA."
  • "You will see more [AI items] in the NDAA this year, and you may very well see some things in any type of appropriations bill."
  • "Privacy and transparency for the upcoming election is an area where we very well might see some items to improve our capabilities to identify for the public what is misinformation."
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