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Thursday, April 11, 2024

This dominant force can tame AI better than politicians

New generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems have captivated the world’s imagination with promise and potential. AI’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data and make autonomous decisions is a source of both awe and anxiety. People worry about bias in decision-making, the invasion of privacy, job displacement, and even the existential fear of machines becoming uncontrollable. How can we make sure AI benefits society? 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has responded by seeking input on how to ensure that AI companies are “accountable.” It asks, “how to develop a productive AI accountability ecosystem.” NTIA defines “AI” broadly enough to sweep in most significant software systems, including many that pre-date recent AI developments.  

And yet, as we at the Center for Growth and Opportunity point out in our just-filed comments, NTIA’s broad sweep misses the primary way companies and technology are held accountable. 

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NTIA’s request doesn’t acknowledge market-based accountability or identify gaps. Yet many of its proposed AI accountability mechanisms, such as transparency, certifications and third-party audits can and already do function within the market, both in AI and in other areas.  

Consider, for example, products that certify the integrity of their supply chain with seals, or the “UL” certification marks on a wide variety of electrical home devices, or Yelp ratings of local services and restaurants.  

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In AI, one recent example is the Center for Industry Self-Regulation’s recently released Principles for Trustworthy AI in Recruiting and Hiring and the Independent Certification Protocols for AI-Enabled Hiring and Recruiting Technologies.  

AI accountability is not just about regulation. It’s about engaging with our existing market system, identifying gaps and cautiously implementing exceptions when necessary. It’s about preserving the market’s ability to self-correct and innovate.  

AI companies, like those in every industry, are held accountable first and foremost by their customers acting within a competitive market system.  

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Instead, NTIA should take a holistic view, recognizing that accountability comes first from markets. It should focus on how to enhance these market-based accountability ecosystems in the era of AIs rather than attempting to replace or undermine them.  

If NTIA seeks to strengthen our oldest and strongest accountability mechanisms – those provided by markets – then it will be better able to address any potential harms while preserving the benefits of AI for society.  

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