Oak Harbor Rep. seeks to regulate Artificial Intelligence in Washington Legislature

State Rep. Clyde Shavers is concerned that artificial intelligence has the potential to discriminate

State Rep. Clyde Shavers is concerned that artificial intelligence has the potential to spread discrimination, create child pornography and generally act in an unethical manner.

Shavers, a Clinton-based democrat, sponsored two bills and a memorial to the federal government concerning the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence, or AI. These were introduced in early January and are now being reviewed by the committee.

AI can be used to sift through thousands of applications to save time for an employer, Shavers said. The algorithm has the potential for biased selection if one type of background is preferred over another. Washington House Bill 1951 promotes ethical AI by protecting against algorithmic discrimination.

The bill defines ethical, responsible, safe and secure use of AI, including privacy and data security. Transparency is vital in understanding how AI is being developed and implemented, Shavers said.

House Bill 1999 adds to previous Washington codes outlining internet sex crimes, such as attaining child pornography, to include AI-generated imagery.

Addressed to President Biden, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States, House Joint Memorial 4005 affirms Washington’s commitment to adopt the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights” to implement safe and nondiscriminatory AI systems.

Washington State is one of the nation’s leaders in AI development. Technology publication GeekWire lists 132 AI startups in the Pacific Northwest. Shavers does not intend to hinder innovation by pushing these bills, he said.

“At the same time, we need to ensure that we protect our civil rights,” he said, “that we protect every single person, when or if they use this technology.”

Because of Washington’s rapid technological advancement, driving the terms of ethical use is equally important, he said.

“It’s important for us to collaborate and to coordinate and to listen to all these experts and the public and try to understand how do we foster this innovation?” he asked. “How do we ensure that it’s not being stifled? At the same time, how do we ensure that people are protected?”

While Shavers’ focus is on the Washington State Legislature, people will be affected by this technology beyond state borders, he said. Just a few years ago, AI was used mostly by a select group of people working in technology. Now, it’s used widely across all professions and will continue to expand.

“I grew up in the era of the internet and social media, and so I’m acutely aware of the rapid speed of how technology can advance,” he said, “but, more importantly, I acknowledge and understand how technology can really affect entire generations, good and bad.”

As vice chair of the House Education Committee, Shavers sees elementary, middle and high schools using ChatGPT, he said. Technology permeates demographics, districts, states and countries.

“As artificial intelligence continues to advance, it will be one of the most significant transformations in technology in recent history,” he said. “I think we are just seeing the beginning of how artificial intelligence can really shape our lives, how we interact, how we live, how we do things and such immense change or the potential for change requires significant motivation and speed for us to be able to understand it first.”

Shavers’ current term ends Jan. 13, 2025, and he plans to run for re-election, he said.