Reining in AI means figuring out which regulation options are feasible, both technically and economically

Concern about generative artificial intelligence technologies seems to be growing almost as fast as the spread of the technologies themselves. These worries are driven by unease about the possible spread of disinformation at a scale never seen before, and fears of loss of employment, loss of control over creative works and, more futuristically, AI becoming so powerful that it causes extinction of the human species.

The concerns have given rise to calls for regulating AI technologies. Some governments, for example the European Union, have responded to their citizens’ push for regulation, while some, such as the U.K. and India, are taking a more laissez-faire approach.

In the U.S., the White House issued an executive order on Oct. 30, 2023, titled Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. It sets out guidelines to reduce both immediate and long-term risks from AI technologies. For example, it asks AI vendors to share safety test results with the federal government and calls for Congress to enact consumer privacy legislation in the face of AI technologies soaking up as much data as they can get.

In light of the drive to regulate AI, it is important to consider which approaches to regulation are feasible. There are two aspects to this question: what is technologically feasible today and what is economically feasible. It’s also important to look at both the training data that goes into an AI model and the model’s output.

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