…But let’s assume federal regulation of new generative artificial intelligence tools like GPT-4 is unfortunately inevitable. What sort of regulatory scheme would be more likely to minimize delays in the further development and deployment of beneficial A.I. technologies?

R Street Institute senior fellow Adam Thierer in his new report recommends a “soft law” approach to overseeing A.I. developments instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down regulatory scheme modeled on the NRC and FDA. Soft law governance embraces a continuum of mechanisms including multi-stakeholder conclaves where governance guidelines can be hammered out; government agency guidance documents, voluntary codes of professional conduct, insurance markets, and third-party accreditation and standards-setting bodies.

Both Microsoft and Thierer point to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) recently released Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework as an example of how voluntary good A.I. governance can be developed. In fact, Microsoft’s new A.I. Blueprint report acknowledges that NIST’s “new AI Risk Management Framework provides a strong foundation that companies and governments alike can immediately put into action to ensure the safer use of artificial intelligence.”

In addition, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued in April a formal request for comments from the public on artificial intelligence system accountability measures and policies. “This request focuses on self-regulatory, regulatory, and other measures and policies that are designed to provide reliable evidence to external stakeholders—that is, to provide assurance—that AI systems are legal, effective, ethical, safe, and otherwise trustworthy,” notes the agency. The NTIA plans to issue a report on A.I. accountability policy based on the comments it receives.

“Instead of trying to create an expensive and cumbersome new regulatory bureaucracy for AI, the easier approach is to have the NTIA and NIST form a standing committee that brings parties together as needed,” argues Thierer. “These efforts will be informed by the extensive work already done by professional associations, academics, activists and other stakeholders…”