Poll: Majority Says Regulations Needed For Artificial Intelligence

Government-enforceable rules should be imposed on the development of artificial intelligence, say most surveyed in a Morning Consult poll.

A large majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe there should be national and international regulations on artificial intelligence. The bipartisan views reflect growing concerns about AI’s influence on the workforce and society, including autonomous cars and robotics.

In a survey of 2,200 American adults, 73 percent of Democrats said there should be U.S. regulations on artificial intelligence, as did 74 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents. The margin of error of the poll was plus or minus two percentage points.

Respondents to the poll also largely backed the idea of international regulations on AI, with 69 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans supporting the idea. A smaller majority (62 percent) of independents said they believe international rules should be implemented governing the technology.

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Research and development in artificial intelligence are expected to bring innovations in technologies spanning most industries, to boost speed and efficiency.

Although machines are not expected to reach the level of human cognition and intelligence in the next 20 years, two top Obama administration science officials late in his tenure discussed the need for greater potential regulation. Then-Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and Assistant for Science and Technology John Holdren noted in an October 2016 letter it’s expected machines will eventually “reach and exceed” human performance on an increasing number of tasks.

“The walls between humans and AI systems are slowly beginning to erode, with AI systems augmenting and enhancing human capabilities,” said a White House companion report attached to the letter.

There are not yet broad regulations on the technology, but the U.S. and other countries have already begun the process of examining the impact of the technology on employment and society and how regulations could help guide a smooth assimilation of AI.

“The approach to regulation of AI-enabled products to protect public safety should be informed by assessment of the aspects of risk that the addition of AI may reduce alongside the aspects of risk it may increase,” said a second report released by the Obama administration in October 2016. The report stressed that policymakers should review whether risks fall within the current regulatory regime, and if those rules adequately address those risks. The report labeled drones and self-driving cars as examples for the challenges of AI regulation already being tackled in the U.S.

In the United Kingdom, a September 2016 report from the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons argued that while it’s too soon to implement industry-wide regulations for the burgeoning technology, it is “vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal dimensions of artificially intelligent systems begins now.”

In his final interview before leaving the White House, President Barack Obama warned that automation going forward will be a greater threat to American jobs than global trade. But the administration of his successor, President Donald Trump, doesn’t share the same concerns over AI.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Axios in March that he is “not worried at all” about robots displacing humans in the near future, adding he believes it’s 50 to 100 years away. “It’s not even on our radar screen,” he said.