Policy

Most Americans want AI regulation — and they want it yesterday

In a poll, people said they wanted to see artificial intelligence technologies develop in the U.S. — alongside rules governing their use.

An exterior photo of the Capitol building on a sunny day

U.S. lawmakers have only just begun the long process of regulating the use of AI.

Photo: Louis Velazquez/Unsplash

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want the U.S to regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence in the next year or sooner — with half saying that regulation should have begun yesterday, according to a Morning Consult poll. Another 13% say that regulation should start in the next year.

"You can thread this together," Austin Carson, founder of new nonprofit group SeedAI and former government relations lead for Nvidia, said in an email. "Half or more Americans want to address all of these things, split pretty evenly along ideological lines."

The poll, which SeedAI commissioned, backs up earlier findings that while U.S. adults support investment in the development of AI, they want clear rules around that development. Almost 70% of adults support more work in developing AI, but majorities from both parties — 67% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans — said that they'd want to see regulation sooner if they knew companies were already testing for bias and other issues.

Carson's group, which officially launches Friday, aims to make sure underrepresented groups and regions can learn about AI, train for jobs in the sector and benefit from the technology. He said he wanted to see the U.S. providing "resources for a diverse range of communities" that would be available for research, development, training and testing on trustworthiness. The formal launch of Carson's group will include Lynne Parker, who is director of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office, as well as members of Congress as speakers.

The poll found that approximately eight in 10 respondents think the federal government should probably or definitely try to make sure AI is trustworthy and safe, with an even greater share supporting a role for state governments or efforts by the companies themselves. On the topic of limiting bias, 65% said the federal government should probably or definitely work on the issue, with 69% saying private companies should.

The itch for regulation is unlikely to get a scratch from the feds anytime soon. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass significant laws governing much more mature aspects of technology, such as the ongoing push for a nationwide privacy law. Still, lawmakers have proposed AI-regulating measures in the past, and a Senate-passed bill that aims to boost the U.S. against China would set up a scholarship to "recruit and train artificial intelligence professionals to lead and support the application of" AI to government activities.

Industry also wants Congress to act. In June, the BSA, a trade group for many companies that produce AI systems, began advocating for Congress to enact a law requiring firms to assess and minimize bias for "high-risk" uses of AI. BSA said at the time it believed the process could take years and added its hope that the proposal would replace farther-reaching legislation.

Regulators elsewhere, however, are also taking notice. Earlier this year, Europe suggested banning systems that pose a serious risk to health and human rights, as well as strict rules for an array of "high-risk" AI.

The poll suggested some specific areas where the public might like to see regulators take action. More than 70% of the people who responded said they were at least somewhat worried about AI being vulnerable to hacking or used to spread misinformation. The majority of respondents also expressed some worry about bias, the decline of human autonomy in daily tasks, job losses, over-reliance on AI in policing or military applications, and AI systems "becoming uncontrollable."

The results suggested the public sees benefits to AI as well. Strong majorities favored investments in teaching kids about using AI and training workers for jobs in the field, particularly the aim of making the U.S. "a global leader" in both areas. Nearly 80% said U.S. investment in AI research and development for military and defense applications was at least somewhat important, alongside 75% who said so for health care.

Interestingly, while Baby Boomers had higher levels of concern about AI, the youngest adults in the survey, from Gen Z (born after 1997), were less likely to say the U.S. should have begun its regulation already, or to be interested in learning about current or future uses of AI.

"As soon as you drop to digital natives, the game changes," Carson said. He suggested that younger adults' attitudes could evolve, but are probably "a more accurate barometer for the future" than millennials and older generations.

The poll interviewed 2,200 adults online, and full survey results had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories
Bulletins