“Artificial intelligence will benefit us immeasurably—if we don’t get in the way.”
—Corbin K. Barthold, WLF Litigation Counsel

(Washington, DC)—Washington Legal Foundation today contributed to the Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century. WLF submitted a formal comment on Hearing #7, an investigation of the “consumer protection issues associated with the use of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics in business decisions and conduct.”

WLF begins its comment with a review of the current state of artificial intelligence. The field has made great progress, particularly with deep neural networks—layered algorithms that can learn to recognize images, sounds, and even optimal game moves. This progress does not, however, mean that “general AI”—AI that can plan and improvise as people do—is right around the corner. The best AI systems are still just pattern-matchers. They are ignorant of forms of context that even children grasp naturally. Given AI’s present limits, fears that AI poses an immediate threat to human flourishing are unfounded. To the contrary, in the coming years AI will benefit mankind immeasurably.

Because the benefits of AI are concrete, while the potential harms are largely speculative, the FTC should not rush to regulate new AI applications. WLF offers guidelines the FTC should follow in order to avoid doing more harm than good. The core theme of the guidelines is restraint. The FTC should wherever possible let companies and consumers determine for themselves the best uses of AI and the optimal balance of performance, transparency, and privacy. The FTC should be careful not to disrupt immensely useful AI innovation.

Celebrating its 41st year as America’s premier public-interest law firm and policy center, WLF advocates for free-market principles, limited government, individual liberty, and the rule of law.