VPIRG Applauds House for Passing Artificial Intelligence Bill, Urges Senate Action
MONTPELIER, VT – Public interest advocates hailed the Vermont House for passing legislation (H.410) that would create a framework for the state to investigate, understand, and shape uses of artificial intelligence in Vermont more comprehensively.
Lead sponsor of the legislation, Representative Brian Cina Chittenden 6-4, said, “I am grateful for the multi-partisan support in the House as we unanimously passed H.410. After a year of testimony, the House Energy and Technology Committee combined H.263 and H.410 into a bill that addresses many of the recommendations of the Vermont Artificial Intelligence Task Force (2018-2020). If H.410 continues down the path to becoming law, Vermont is going to be the first state to create an Artificial Intelligence Commission to study and monitor all aspects of artificial intelligence systems developed, employed, or procured by the government of Vermont. Instead of worsening disparities and replicating bias, artificial intelligence can help us solve humanity’s greatest problems — disease, climate change, poverty, and war — if we choose to harness its potential to serve the greater good. Vermont is on the way to leading the nation once again in the ethical development and use of AI.\”
Donna Rizzo, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Gund Fellow at the University of Vermont and a member of the A.I. Task Force, commended the Legislature’s progress in this arena, stating: \”AI is simply a tool, and like any tool, it has the potential to be used for good and bad. I’m so proud that Vermont is thinking long-term and asking the right questions – How will AI be used in Vermont and what role(s) will businesses & regulators play to be leaders in the future of confidential, algorithmically fair, and meaningful AI research & development?\”
Representative Lucy Rogers, Lamoille-3, who helped shepherd the bill through the House as a member of the Energy & Technology Committee, added, “Artificial Intelligence offers opportunities for governmental cost-savings and increased efficiency at a wide variety of tasks,” noting, however, that, “certain forms of Artificial Intelligence also carry a risk of privacy invasion, discrimination, and other impacts to civil liberties, particularly if not subject to proper oversight. In a work environment where a racist or sexist culture makes it impossible for women or people of color to be promoted, for example, the algorithm could learn to simply stop hiring diverse candidates, weaving injustice into the fabric of the algorithm. H.410 lays the groundwork for intentionality and transparency in our state government’s usage of artificial intelligence.”
“We need to broaden and deepen our statewide conversation around uses of artificial intelligence, which increasingly pervade core aspects of our lives, influencing outcomes ranging from employment, insurance, housing, and credit-related decisions to our enjoyment of fundamental rights to privacy and self-determination,” said Sebbi Wu, Climate & Equity Advocate at VPIRG. “H.410 is a step toward confronting the impact of technology on Vermonters, protecting the most vulnerable from potential misuses, and encouraging the ethical and positive development of this powerful technology.”
H.410 would create the state’s first A.I. Commission to inventory the State’s uses of A.I., adopt standards for that usage, and develop an A.I. code of ethics. As one of Vermont’s lead consumer protection organizations, particularly on digital issues, VPIRG will continue to emphasize the central importance of fairness and privacy in the application of A.I. as the bill moves to the Senate, where it will need to pass to become law this year.