California Plants Artificial Intelligence Flag

Peter Leroe-Muñoz
General Counsel and SVP of Technology & Innovation, SVLG

Chairman of Responsible AI Working Group, SVLG

The rise of AI, and the prominence of generative AI in particular, has led to a flurry of policy and regulatory proposals in a mad dash to do something – anything – in the space. What’s behind this push, is a desire to avoid being flat-footed when it comes to tech and innovation.

And while many of the proposals are well-intentioned, the rush to regulate without proper diligence can shortchange public debate and lead to incomplete or detrimental government decisions.

The Golden State appears to be taking a more deliberate course.

Governor Newsom’s recent Executive Order focuses on generative AI, but the underlying objectives and approach extend more generally to AI and its various incarnations.

The EO outlines a deliberate process to study the development, uses and risks attendant to the new technology. Further, it proposes that California work towards deploying AI that is ethical, transparent and trustworthy in order to be more effective and accessible for residents and communities.

The technology certainly presents both opportunities and challenges. California is wise to pursue a clear-eyed and nuanced approach to AI – one that is collaborative and rooted in curiosity and understanding. 

For starters, AI has the potential to dramatically scale the government’s capacity to understand and use data in creative ways to better serve residents. Which agencies couldn’t benefit from technology that will help reduce backlogs, spot inconsistencies and identify areas where resources can be better deployed? Think on that the next time you’re on hold with the DMV, waiting for a reply to a state tax question or trying to file for a municipal business license.

There are also real challenges presented by the technology that need to be addressed: mitigating bias in AI models, growing a diverse workforce that includes the best domestic and foreign talent, retraining workers who may see impacts to their jobs, and building the capacity of the everyday user when it comes to models and algorithms. 

But those who argue for a faster approach to regulation would do well to consider that California has more at stake than other jurisdictions. As the leader when it comes to the innovation that fuels the nation’s competitiveness, the world is watching. 

The EO rightfully notes that California is the global champion in AI innovation – 35 of the world’s top 50 artificial intelligence companies call the state home. Bay Area companies alone account for a quarter of all AI patents and conference papers globally. There’s a lot at stake for California. Rushing for the sake of rushing simply puts our leading innovation at risk.

The Governor’s Order seems to strike the right balance between thoughtfully considering both the unique opportunities and new challenges presented by AI. 

The deliberate approach is the best strategy for sustained success.