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Congresswoman Robin Kelly testifies before European Parliament Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence

March 1, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02) testified before the European Parliament Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age.

In her message to the joint hearing on the external policy dimension of AI, Congresswoman Kelly stressed the importance of Transatlantic cooperation and aligning US-EU regulations around Artificial Intelligence.

Congresswoman Kelly's opening remarks are below:

"Thank you, Chairman Tudorache for inviting me to testify today. For the past 4 years I have been studying Artificial Intelligence as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I do not come at these issues with a technical background or a particular IT expertise. I have spent my working career in local, state and now federal office.

"In 2017, I was elected the Ranking Democrat of the House Oversight and Government Reform Information Technology Subcommittee. The Chair of the Subcommittee, a Republican from Texas, Will Hurd, was a former CIA agent and private sector cybersecurity advisor.

"We came to the issue from different perspectives, but from a shared desire to understand the issue and best position for the U.S. to be leaders in AI.

"We held some of the first Congressional hearings on AI to help educate our fellow Members of Congress and understand current federal government initiatives.

"Following these hearings, I felt there was more work to be done and that the U.S. lacked a clear strategy for AI. For more than a year Former Rep. Hurd and I worked with the Bipartisan Policy Center to outline the top priorities for a U.S. national strategy. We published four white papers on AI in national security, ethics and bias, research and development, and the workforce. And last year we passed a House Resolution laying the foundation for a national AI strategy. In January of this year, the National Defense Authorization Act became law which advanced some of the priorities outlined in our white papers and resolution.

"Even after these successes, there is still a lot of Member education still needed. How can we be expected to legislate on an issue that is rapidly evolving, in its infancy, and highly technical?

"At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of governments to build trust and confidence in AI.

"For me, issues around ethics, bias, and the workforce are personal.

"From an AI bias perspective, people who look like me have the most to lose.

"Consistently, persons who are older, darker skinned, and women, are the most inaccurately classified by AI. While often unintentional, bad data sets and real-world biases can creep into algorithms.

"Tech companies cannot hide behind the shield of stifling innovation to avoid all regulation.

"Companies must be reminded that if things are illegal in the real world, then they are also illegal in an algorithm.

"Issues of civil rights must be prioritized during the development and integration of AI systems. Gaps in existing frameworks must be addressed using a risk-based approach that recognizes the disparity in AI-related risks across different sectors. At the same time, there is a real danger of over prescriptive regulations.

"Nations that do not share our commitment to democratic values, are racing to be the leaders in AI and set the rules for the world. We cannot allow this to happen. While I understand your desire to be the first to write regulations, I encourage you to be narrow and flexible and consider the US's perspective. A pro-innovation approach with close collaboration is the best path to promote our shared prosperity and values.

"Do not mistake our lack of regulations for disinterest in AI. Both the Obama and Trump Administrations took positive steps towards putting forth policies around AI. The U.S. has supported both the OECD AI Principles and the G7 Global Partnership on AI, two important global frameworks for AI. The Biden Administration looks to continue working on AI and has already moved to increase interagency collaboration.

"Today, while I am speaking to you all, the U.S. National Security Commission on AI is releasing their final report to the President and Congress. I have no doubt that many of their proposals will have bipartisan support and lead to agency and Congressional action.

"The National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST is now working on creating a framework for AI to develop measurable standards for evaluating fairness and mitigating potentially harmful bias.

"Regulation alone will not cure all of AI's potential harms. Both of us must commit to building a diverse tech workforce. Neither the U.S. nor the EU can compete against China based on the raw number of computer science graduates and the amount of data they collect on their citizens. What we lack in pure numbers of computer science majors and engineers, we must make up for in ingenuity and creativity.

"We must increase public-private partnerships and encourage transatlantic cooperation and collaboration. DeepMind, based in the UK, but a subsidiary of Alphabet, is a great example of transatlantic cooperation. Their recent breakthroughs into protein folding have the potential to dramatically change medicine and pharmaceutical development.

"Increases in data localization or digital sovereignty will not benefit the U.S. or the EU. We must be able to share data while respecting civil liberties, privacy, and human rights.

"It is my hope that we can work together and harmonize our AI policies so digital trade and collaboration can continue. Both of us have profound challenges ahead trying to chart a path forward. It is vital that democratic nations are the ones that shape this new technology in the global marketplace.

I apologize that I cannot stay the entire time, but I look forward to your questions."