US provides guidelines to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Source: Shutterstock

US provides guidelines to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Source: Shutterstock

Can APAC learn something from how the US regulates AI applications?

WHEN governments have clear laws, businesses can innovate quickly and effectively.

The US, therefore, is working on creating guidelines that it can use to not only regulate artificial intelligence (AI) applications but also provide businesses a sense of direction when investing in the technology.

To that end, the White House has published a draft memo. The document is clear that the aim of the US government is to encourage innovation and growth in AI.

“The deployment of AI holds the promise to improve safety, fairness, welfare, transparency, and other social goals, and America’s maintenance of its status as a global leader in AI development is vital to preserving our economic and national security.”

Lawmakers, including US President Donald Trump, believe that developing and deploying AI requires a regulatory approach that fosters innovation, growth, and trust.

The memo suggests that government bodies contemplating the regulation of AI applications should assess the effect of the potential regulation on AI innovation and growth.

“Agencies must avoid a precautionary approach that holds AI systems to such an impossibly high standard that society cannot enjoy their benefits. Where AI entails risk, agencies should consider the potential benefits and costs of employing AI, when compared to the systems AI has been designed to complement or replace.”

The document issued by the White House also proposes 10 principles for the stewardship of AI applications. At the top of the list are ‘public trust in AI’ and ‘public participation’.

The government seems to clearly understand the fact that AI can post just as many risks to the public as it can offer rewards — and hence, emphasizes the need to “promote reliable, robust, and trustworthy AI applications, which will contribute to public trust in AI”. Further, the government also intends to raise awareness about AI, which is expected to boost adopting rather than cause panic among the public.

Other principles that will guide government bodies regulating AI applications relate to reviewing information quality, ensuring the adoption of risk management practices, blending in a bit of flexibility (into regulatory judgments), and guaranteeing fairness and non-discrimination).

Of course, transparency, safety and security, and interagency coordination are also key to helping AI and its applications flourish in the country.

Aside from this, the extensive, 15-page memo provides many other guidelines to regulatory bodies in the US that will ultimately be responsible for helping (or hindering) the country’s progress with AI.

Experts in the country and overseas who have reviewed the document issued by the White House appreciate the approach taken by the government but believe that more work needs to be done if businesses are expected to benefit.

In the Asia Pacific (APAC), especially in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, AI and its applications are supported in a number of ways.

Singapore’s central bank, for example, issued a set of principles to promote fairness, ethics, accountability, and transparency (FEAT) in the use of AI and data analytics in the country’s financial sector almost two years ago. Hong Kong followed suit last year with its own set of guidelines.

At the national level, Singapore recently issued a holistic set of guidelines to promote the use of AI in a way that benefits the public — intended to guide government agencies, businesses, and all other stakeholders of the smart nation.

What the APAC could learn from the new US efforts to regulate AI applications, however, is to adopt a more open approach to the technology.

This is obviously more true for countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines where laws are often seen as lagging behind innovation rather than leading them to new and exciting opportunities ahead.

In the coming months, more nations in the APAC need to think about regulating AI to ensure that academic and commercial researchers can keep innovating, while also garnering support from and gaining the trust of the public.