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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Panel of Distinguished AI Experts Discuss Challenges of AI Regulation with the Honorable Ro Khanna

Leaders in business, civil sector, government, and academia at the AI Roundtable with Congressman Ro Khanna held March 18, 2024 at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Leaders in business, civil sector, government, and academia at the AI Roundtable with Congressman Ro Khanna held March 18, 2024 at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Ann Skeet

Ann Skeet (@leaderethics) is the senior director of leadership ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Views are her own.


Leadership takes many forms, and often the most important thing leaders can do is listen. The Institute for Technology Ethics and Culture at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Santa Clara School of Law hosted a roundtable discussion on March 18, 2024, with Congressman Ro Khanna and leaders from industry, civil society, and academia. Congressman Khanna wanted to hear from experts in his district to inform his thinking about AI regulation. I was honored to moderate the discussion.

Opinions were as diverse as the group bringing them forward. It was observed that many of us are used to speaking so frequently with those in our own field that the chance to connect with those in other areas reveals sharp differences in perspective. Several participants felt, for example, that deepfakes are not something to be too concerned about since they are easily identifiable, whereas others felt there are still many people who struggle to identify them.  People are often confused by false images or voices and as technology advances, this confusion will only deepen.

Where opinion was the most consistent across sectors represented was around the impact to jobs. Several participants felt the number of jobs was going to decline within the next decade, but beyond that, opinions varied. Some felt that job losses may not materialize as soon or as significantly as some people have warned. However, participants believe AI will change the nature of jobs. For some, that emerged in a discussion about upskilling employees to be AI literate, but others offered more dire observations about the impact on, for example, warehouse workers trying to respond to artificial productivity performance metrics set by AI that are not safely achievable. 

One person observed that there is no such thing as trustworthy AI without trustworthy data, and others agreed with this point as a means of advocating for a national privacy law. But this did not mean there was unanimity of a point of view around whether or not AI regulation should happen at the federal or state level. Industry participants observed, and others acknowledged, the challenges of doing business in states with a patchwork of laws. As a result, they were more interested in federal solutions. But there was also a perspective shared by several people that a federal privacy law should not prevent states from enacting greater protections, valuing the ability to develop laws at the state level that are driven by local perspectives and allow for flexibility.

AI Roundtable with Congressman Ro Khanna held March 18, 2024 at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Some felt the most effective laws will focus on the uses of AI, rather than the tools themselves. Laws become outdated quickly if they are focused on the tool itself and the chance of fully addressing bad behavior is more likely if regulation is use oriented. Areas of concern included using AI in credit, employment, and incarceration decisions.

Several participants also expressed concerns about the lack of information about the training data of models.  Businesses, artists, researchers need that information to use the systems and lawmakers need that information in order to regulate effectively. Some proposed laws that mandate more disclosure than currently required by the EU’s AI Act or Digital Services Act.

In addition to legislation, several advocated for changes to education. Students are concerned about AI taking their future jobs or impacting them in other ways. Several felt one way to address this was by teaching AI literacy in schools while others advocated for not just how to use AI, but also how to use it ethically.  One person suggested teaching ethics in schools as early as middle and high school.

Geopolitically, several commented on the AI race that nations are in with one another for AI supremacy. There was one ominous observation that as employment declines due to AI, humans might be seen as more of a liability than an asset by some governments. Another point made with global implications was the high use of energy and water by AI systems.

The conversation at the roundtable, and the prepared statements each participants opened the session with, served as a resource for the Congressman in his work developing and advocating for regulation. He indicated he would be taking the information with him back to D.C. to apply as future legislation is developed. He expressed his gratitude for the perspectives that were shared by the participants and to the Markkula Center and the School of law for convening the group.


Mar 27, 2024

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