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California Lawmakers Advance AI Regulation Bill Amid Industry Backlash

 |  July 3, 2024

California lawmakers have advanced a piece of legislation aimed at artificial intelligence (AI) regulation, despite facing strong opposition from major tech companies and venture capital firms.

The bill, authored by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, seeks to impose strict safety measures on AI systems to prevent potential risks, such as manipulating electric grids or aiding in the production of chemical weapons, as AI technology advances.

According to reports from the Associated Press, the proposed law mandates AI companies to conduct thorough testing and implement safety protocols for systems costing more than $100 million in computing power used for training. Currently, no existing AI models meet this criteria as of July.

Senator Wiener clarified that the bill does not intend to penalize AI developers, but aims to establish reasonable safety standards. He criticized opponents for spreading misinformation during a recent legislative hearing, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding against potential harms.

“This bill focuses on setting practical safety standards for AI, not on punishing developers,” Wiener stated.

The legislation has faced strong opposition from major tech firms, including Meta (formerly Facebook) and Google, who argue that such regulations could hinder innovation and discourage investment in AI development. Critics from these companies suggest focusing on the misuse of AI rather than regulating developers.

Related: New Report Says AI Regulations Lag Behind Industry Advances

Governor Gavin Newsom has refrained from commenting directly on the bill but has expressed concerns about overregulation potentially hindering California’s technological advancements. Despite this, his administration has explored AI applications in public services like traffic management and tax guidance.

Supporters of the bill, including prominent AI researchers, argue that delaying regulation could lead to risks similar to those seen in the tech industry’s past oversights.

In addition to setting safety standards, the legislation proposes creating a new state agency to oversee AI development and establish industry best practices. Proponents believe this regulatory framework is essential for ensuring responsible development and deployment of AI technologies.

The bill’s future remains uncertain as it continues to face significant opposition and awaits further legislative deliberations. Given California’s role as a leader in tech regulation, the outcome of this legislation could influence AI governance nationwide.

Source: AP News