Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., unveiled his SAFE Innovation Framework for Artificial Intelligence (AI) today, saying that the framework will help lead the way for the development of Federal AI policy within “months.”

During a June 21 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Sen. Schumer outlined a two-part proposal to move America forward on AI: an innovative framework, and the first-of-their-kind AI Insight Forums which will take place in the fall.

“It’s been said that what the locomotive and electricity did for human muscle a century and a half ago, artificial intelligence is doing for human knowledge today as we speak,” Sen. Schumer said during his speech on Wednesday. “But the effect of AI is far more profound and will certainly occur over a much shorter period of time.”

“The question is, what role does Congress and the Federal government have in this new revolution? Are we capable of playing a proactive role in promoting AI’s growth? Can Congress work to maximize AI’s benefits while protecting the American people and all of humanity from its novel risks,” the senator asked.

“Congress must join the AI revolution,” he said in reply.

During CSIS’s Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies event, the Senate Majority Leader explained that because Congress, and the world, has never seen a tool like AI, the governing body is basically starting from scratch.

That’s why Sen. Schumer’s new SAFE Innovation Framework for AI will be crucial to yielding new policy over the next several months.

During the first half of the year, his team has been holding discussions with more than 100 AI developers, executives, scientists, workforce experts, and advocates to launch the SAFE Innovation Framework for AI.

The framework features five pillars:

  • Security: Shore up national security by examining AI threats from foreign adversaries or rogue groups, and ensure economic security for workers;
  • Accountability: Support the creation of responsible systems to address things like misinformation and bias and support creators by addressing copyright concerns and protecting intellectual property;
  • Foundations: Require that AI systems align with democratic values at their core, protect elections, promote AI’s societal benefits while avoiding potential harms, and stop China from writing the rules of the road on AI;
  • Explain: Companies should share how their AI system arrived at a particular answer in simple and understandable terms so users can better understand why the system produced a particular answer and where that answer came from; and
  • Innovation: Support U.S. innovation in AI technologies that focuses on unlocking the potential of AI and maintaining U.S. leadership in the technology.

“Innovation must be our North Star,” Sen. Schumer said during his speech at CSIS. “If there are not adequate guardrails in place, it will stifle or even halt innovation altogether. So, it is safe innovation we must seek.”

The Majority Leader explained that in order for Congress to develop AI legislation, lawmakers are going to have to embark on a new process that does not exclusively include hearings. The second part of his proposal unveiled in D.C. today includes a new legislative approach: the first-ever series of AI Insight Forums.

Starting in the fall, Sen. Schumer said he will begin inviting “the best of the best” – top AI developers, community leaders, executives, scientists, advocates, workers, and national security experts – to convene in one room to do “years of work in just months.”

He explained that the discussion forums will span several different topics that represent the biggest issues in AI, from workforce to national security to privacy and everything in between.

“These Insight Forums are the first of their kind. They have to be the first of their kind, because AI moves so quickly, will change our world so dramatically, is deeper in its complexity, and lacks the legislative history in Congress that other issues have,” Sen. Schumer explained.

“If we take the typical path – holding Congressional hearings with opening statements and each member asking questions five minutes at a time on different issues – we simply won’t be able to come up with the right policies,” he continued, adding, “By the time we act, AI will have evolved into something new. This will not do. A new approach is required.”

The senator explained that the Insight Forums will not replace congressional committee hearings on AI but will happen alongside them so that the legislative body can push out policies on the technology within a matter of months rather than years.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach – because that’s what AI’s complexities and speed demands,” Sen. Schumer said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.