The Label Blog

AI Regulation: The Urgent Need for Stronger Oversight 

ai regulation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are transformative innovations reshaping industries, economies, and societies worldwide. While AI technologies promise to revolutionize countless aspects of our lives, there is a concerning lack of adequate oversight in developing and deploying the rapidly evolving tools. Frameworks introduced so far often need to be revised and more cohesive to demonstrate that the government has a grip on the current levels of growth. Currently, AI oversight in the US is marked by a patchwork of regulations that struggle to keep pace with innovation, posing a major risk to security and the ability to compete in the global AI race.

The Current State of AI Regulation

At present, the regulatory framework governing AI in the United States is characterized by a complex web of laws and guidelines that vary across industries and governmental agencies. At the heart of President Biden’s ambitious plan to oversee a new generation of artificial intelligence models is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Through executive order, the 123-year-old lab is assigned with the development of tests to identify security flaws and harms. However, former staff have pointed out the inability of the skeletal staff to perform such a task as they endure budget cuts and a working environment that is below acceptable building standards. 


As the government’s foremost authority on technological advancements is grappling with a series of infrastructure challenges and budget constraints that are hindering its operations, it is clear the government is falling behind industry giants in the field of AI and machine learning. Research and development efforts are routinely disrupted by blackouts and leaks that create a risk to valuable data and expensive equipment. Beyond that, working in subpar conditions has taken a toll on employee morale regularly disincentivizing productivity and pushing promising talent toward tech giants that offer a very different lifestyle. 

Comparison of NIST’s Budget to That of Tech Giants

As of the latest figures, NIST’s budget stands at around $1.46 billion, a modest amount when compared to the scale of its responsibilities. In contrast, major tech firms are pouring tens of billions of dollars into research and development of AI research and development, dwarfing NIST’s budget by orders of magnitude. The significant gap between NIST’s budget and that of tech firms highlights the disparity in resources available for government oversight of AI technologies. 


NIST’s constrained budget limits its ability to invest in cutting-edge technologies and expertise necessary for comprehensive evaluations of AI systems. Without adequate resources, NIST and the government as a whole will struggle to keep pace with rapid advancements in AI technology, lagging behind industry developments. Unchecked innovation and misuse are risks that grow with the inability to implement proper governance as a result of an ever-increasing resource gap. 

The Impact of Budget Cuts on Government Initiatives 

Another round of proposed budget cuts has led to a slowdown in initiatives related to AI oversight and regulation, delaying the development of crucial tests and standards. Understaffing, particularly in key tech teams has limited the capacity of initiatives to carry out their intended responsibilities. Innovative approaches and technologies necessary for addressing the imminent challenges in AI are impaired as limited funding plagues efforts. 


A less-considered risk associated with low budgets is the growing level of industry influence. Conflicts of interest and biased evaluations are a rising concern as government agencies are forced to search for outside funding or partner with big businesses to gain access to necessary resources. The lack of independence that government initiatives suffer from fuels the flames of undermining the public trust in long-standing institutions and their ability to perform regulatory oversight. The risk of industry influence requires new levels of transparency measures to ensure regulatory decisions are based on objective criteria rather than external pressures. 

Importance of Government-Led AI Initiatives

Government-led initiatives to develop AI and machine learning capabilities are essential today and moving into the future. Some proposals for advancement have been brought forward such as the CREATE AI Act which authorizes the construction of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR), a cloud computing resource that democratizes the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). This type of legislation aimed at addressing the challenges faced by government agencies like NIST in overseeing AI technologies is imperative for the future of the US in the AI development race. The Act demonstrates a much-needed commitment by policymakers to prioritize AI safety and regulation, providing support for agencies tasked with overseeing rapidly evolving technology. 


By Investing in these types of initiatives, the US can maintain its leadership position in the global race ensuring the regulatory framework remains robust and adaptable to emerging challenges. Countries like Britain have already made significant investments in AI safety efforts, allocating substantial funding to research initiatives and regulatory agencies. The also provides an opportunity for international cooperation through the facilitation of knowledge sharing, harmonization of standards, and the promotion of responsible AI development on a global scale to foster a more secure and equitable future.