Two US states seize the initiative to regulate AI

In the absence of overarching federal legislation, Colorado and Connecticut have taken the lead in regulating artificial intelligence (AI) in the United States.

Both states have embarked on bold plans to set a framework for the rapidly evolving technology but there has been formidable resistance from the industry as the debate continues to find a workable solution to ensure protections are in place yet enough space is left for AI to flourish.

Lawmakers know the tech will create opportunities but it is also a situation strewn with risk, requiring some tough decisions.

Connecticut had set the tone, followed by Colorado, but the Constitution State saw its efforts stifled after Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont raised the spectre of a veto with concerns the proposed legislation was too stringent.

The Governor stated, “It was just premature for Connecticut to jump way ahead of this. We’ve got to let the entrepreneurs have a little room to run so we see where this can take us, and be prepared when we have to rein something in.”

Initial efforts in the state were gathering pace after a first-in-the-nation law was passed as well as a data privacy agreement. A working group was set up including politicians and industry representatives with Sen. James Maroney leading the push. Some thought the main bill was too lax, while others wanted it reduced.

It had protections to mitigate AI’s risk of discriminating against people in healthcare, education, and housing, while it also sought to criminalize ‘deepfake’ porn. There was plenty to work with but ultimately, the proposal was torpedoed by Gov. Lamont. Efforts will continue to find common ground in Connecticut.

Colorado seeks to act on AI, from where Connecticut fell short

Meanwhile in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis is under increasing pressure to follow a similar course of action.

The tech industry is lobbying hard for the Democrat figurehead to quash his own party’s proposed bill, with a key argument insisting a state-by-state approach is the wrong solution.

Colorado is seeking to learn and adapt from where Connecticut’s plans fell short, but the pressure is growing against lawmakers, as other states watch on.

“My fear is that it will absolutely stifle innovation for small companies like mine, I just don’t understand why we’re rushing (legislation)”, opined Kyle Shannon, founder of Colorado-based firm AI Salon.

In response, a co-sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Rep. Brianna Titone stated, “We had to start in a place and build a foundation, which I think this bill really does. It’s the first step in a long conversation that we will have with the tech industry and in the legislature.”

Governor Polis has until June 7 to act on the bill.

Image credit: Ideogram

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Graeme Hanna