A bill that would guide California state agencies’ use of artificial intelligence has made its way to the Legislature.

The California AI Accountability Act, introduced as Senate Bill 896 by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, would create a roadmap and regulations for use of the emerging technology by state agencies, including requiring notice to the public when they are interacting with artificial intelligence.

“By now we all recognize the tremendous capability of artificial intelligence to improve our lives and the functioning of government,” Sen. Dodd said. “But we also see its potential downsides — specifically, the threat to consumer privacy, transparency and fairness. My proposal will help identify the risks of these emerging systems and develop appropriate guidelines to protect our state and the public.”

Differentiating conventional and generative AI

The bill differentiates between different types and applications of artificial intelligence, treating conventional AI as technology that can be used to replace human decision making, including “high-risk automated decision systems,” and generative AI, which can create text, audio, images and video through data input.

The move to regulate AI through legislation comes as President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom separately expressed a desire to address how the technology is governed at the federal and state level.

“By now we all recognize the tremendous capability of artificial intelligence ... (b)ut we also see its potential downsides. ... My proposal will help identify the risks of these emerging systems and develop appropriate guidelines to protect our state and the public.”

State Sen. Bill Dodd

The Biden Administration created a “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights” in October 2022. It highlights ways that the technology has been used to collect information about the public without their knowledge, engaged in discrimination because of biased algorithms, or otherwise threatened civil rights and employment and economic opportunities.

The blueprint also noted the positive impact the technology has had, and could continue to have, if properly regulated. It established five key areas of focus, which included creating safe and effective systems, creating algorithmic discrimination protections, safeguarding data privacy, giving notice and explanation for the use of AI, and considering human alternatives and contingency systems.

A plotting machine uses generative artificial intelligence technology to create a random work of art at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento on Jan. 6, 2024. The only human interaction required is when the machine pauses periodically to request a new color. Here it draws using a magenta ink pen. (Glenn Gehlke/Pagransen)

Newsom issued Executive Order N-12-23 in September 2023. It expressed support for the technology and noted that 35 of the current top 50 companies in the industry are located in California. But it also outlined steps to take to confront the risks AI could pose, echoing many of the Biden Administration’s concerns.

Dodd introduced a resolution last year that was the first attempt by the Legislature to address AI’s use at the state level. It was unanimously passed.

Assessing risks and benefits

The new bill creates guidelines for state agencies, departments and subdivisions on how to review, adopt, and regulate technology that has automated decision-making capabilities. It instructs California’s Government Operations Agency, the Department of Technology, and the Office of Data and Innovation to produce a report on the risks and benefits of AI in the state.

It also stipulates that the Legislature intends the guidelines to extend to the private sector as well, particularly requiring notice to the public when AI is being used.

A sampling of some of the random works of art created by a plotting machine controlled by generative artificial intelligence technology is displayed at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento on Jan. 6, 2024. Each image is composed one color at a time, a process than can take several hours from start to finish. (Glenn Gehlke/Pagransen)

Another provision in the bill would encourage the state’s universities and private sector to collaborate and invest in AI education to build a workforce that is able to use the technology effectively.

The AI Accountability Act will next be considered by the Senate Rules Committee.