Is Regulatory Capture by Big AI Inevitable?

The Biden Administration's Executive Order has stirred up discussion about the regulatory capture in AI. For good reason.

Abstract image of person in a cage

President Biden's recent Executive Order on AI marks a significant moment for the industry. It captures a host of narratives surrounding AI and in doing so has sparked reaction from tech and venture leaders. The Executive Order represents not a law but a strategic political gesture. It doesn’t have the teeth of law, has no enforcement mechanism, and does not align its broad aims with the necessary resources.

Why has it stirred up so much discussion about the risks of regulatory capture, particularly regarding innovation and safety? 

Regulatory capture is a phenomenon where regulatory agencies, established to act in the public interest, instead advance the commercial or special interests of the industry or sector they are supposed to regulate. This happens when the regulators, over time, become more aligned with the interests of the industry players due to various factors like lobbying, the promise of future employment in the industry, or the industry's greater access to information. Regulatory capture is a very human process. There’s no deep magic to it—it’s a result of people being people—a fundamentally social phenomenon. 

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