Fourth Quarter and 2020 Annual Review of Artificial Intelligence and Automated Systems
In 2020, companies and regulators faced unprecedented challenges as they navigated the COVID-19 crisis and a rapidly evolving set of issues and policy proposals on the regulation of Artificial Intelligence and Automated Systems (“AI”). After a slow start, the second half of 2020 saw a noticeable surge in AI-related regulatory and policy proposals as well as growing international coordination. We may be seeing an inflection point in AI governance, and 2021 is poised to bring consequential legislative and policy changes.
In the U.S., the fourth quarter 2020 saw federal rulemaking gather real pace. At the very end of 2020, Congress passed landmark legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), boosting the nascent U.S. national AI strategy, increasing spending for AI research funding, and raising the profile of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) as the need for more coordination with respect to technical standards emerges as a policy priority. The expansion of AI research funding and coordination by the new National AI Initiative Office places the federal government in a more prominent role in AI research. Amid waning public trust in the use of tools for automated decision-making, 2020 also saw a number of federal bills promoting the ethical and equitable use of AI technologies and consumer protection measures.
The European Union (“EU”) has emerged as a pacesetter in AI regulation, taking significant steps towards a long-awaited comprehensive and coordinated regulation of AI at EU level—evidence of the European Commission’s (the “Commission”) ambition to exploit the potential of the EU’s internal market and position itself as a major player in sustainable technological innovation. This legislation is expected imminently, and all signs point to a sweeping regulatory regime with a system for AI oversight of high-risk applications that could significantly impact technology companies active in the EU.
Our 2020 Artificial Intelligence and Automated Systems Annual Legal Review examines a number of the most significant developments affecting companies as they navigate the evolving AI landscape, focusing on developments within the United States. We also touch, albeit non-exhaustively, on developments within the EU and the UK that may be of interest to domestic and international companies alike.
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