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Washington state lawmakers, attorney general eye AI task force

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(The Center Square) – Two Washington state lawmakers are proposing a new task force that will study the promises and perils of artificial intelligence.

Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, and Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, are partnering with the state Attorney General’s Office in introducing companion legislation that calls for creation of a 42-member panel that can recommend guiding principles in the use of generative artificial intelligence.

As proposed, the task force would meet at least twice a year and deliver a preliminary report to the governor and the legislature by Dec. 1, 2025 with final findings and recommendations due June 1, 2027.

The two measures, Senate Bill 5838 and House Bill 1934, will be considered during the 2024 legislative session that starts Jan. 8 in Olympia.

“So often policymakers are behind the eight-ball when new technology emerges, and we are forced to be reactionary. My bipartisan bill will help us avoid that as much as possible by creating a task force of the region’s experts to help educate the Legislature on AI and make recommendations on future policy,” Couture, who prefiled his bill last week, said in a press release on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Artificial Intelligence Task Force will be comprised of representatives from the Legislature, state agencies, technology experts, civil liberty advocates, businesses and other stakeholders.

“Washington is on the cutting edge of innovation,” Ferguson said. “It is imperative that we embrace new technology in a thoughtful way. As we celebrate the benefits, we must also ensure we protect against the potential for irresponsible use and unintentional consequences.”

Generative AI – which can create text, image and audio content – has exploded in popularity, with tools such as ChatGPT becoming some of the fastest-growing consumer internet applications of all time.

According to the Attorney General’s office, a recent survey showed that 79% of respondents in North America reported at least some exposure to generative AI. Of those respondents, 41% reported using it regularly while 22% said they regularly use it at work.

If created, the task force is expected to examine:

Guiding principles for generative artificial intelligence use;High-risk uses of artificial intelligence, including those that may negatively affect safety or fundamental rights;Opportunities to support and protect the innovation of generative artificial intelligence technologies;Recommendations on how the state should educate to the public on development and use of generative AI;Public policy issues, including benefits and risks to the public broadly, historically excluded communities, racial equity considerations, workforce effects, and ethical concerns.

Couture said there are numerous theoretical issues regarding AI plus real-world examples of its potential harm, such as a recent incident in which New Jersey high school students allegedly used AI to create pornographic images of classmates.

At the same time, he said, the technology “is a potential game-changer in education, healthcare, and much more.”

“We do not want to ban something that creates tremendous benefit simply because we do not understand it,” said Couture. “But we also must anticipate potential risks on the horizon and plan accordingly. This task force helps us do that. It also meets the slow and methodical approach most people who responded to my recent AI survey indicated they favored.”

Nguyen chairs the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy, and Technology. Couture serves on the House Appropriations, Human Services, and Education committees.

Over two dozen other states have introduced legislation related to artificial intelligence and four states – Colorado, Illinois, Vermont, and Virginia – have created task forces or commissions to study it, according to the AG’s office.

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