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NY seeks to regulate artificial intelligence, assess its impact

Gov. Cuomo created a commission on governing artificial

Gov. Cuomo created a commission on governing artificial intelligence and examining how robots "may be used in unlawful or unsafe ways." Credit: Jeff Bachner

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo created a commission Wednesday to guide New York in governing artificial intelligence in robots and examining how the burgeoning technology can impact the labor market, improve public services and industry, and look at how AI and robots “may be used in unlawful or unsafe ways."

The commission will examine how other states have regulated artificial intelligence, and look at what revisions are needed to New York laws in how to regulate artificial intelligence to protect industry and residents.

The 13-member commission will include five appointed by Cuomo, two by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, two by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, one by Senate Republican leader John Flanagan, one by Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb, and one each by the chancellors of the State University of New York and the City University of New York.

Findings and recommendations from the new Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation Commission will be reported to the governor and the Legislature for action.

“Artificial intelligence and automation are already having a profound impact across many industries and their influence keeps growing, so it's critical that we do everything in our power to understand their capabilities and potential pitfalls,” Cuomo said. “This new commission will look closely at how these rapidly evolving technologies are functioning and report back on how we can optimize use to benefit New Yorkers and our economy.”

The debate in the Legislature over creating the commission included questions of who would be responsible if a robot kills someone — the builder? The owner? The designer?

“It’s not too far from us,” said Assemb. Clyde Vanel (D-Cambria Heights), co-sponsor of the bill, in May.

“We cannot fear a future in which machines evolve beyond humans, so let's get ahead of the curve and study the issue,” said Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Internet and Technology.

Vanel said the state must be prepared to benefit from jobs and opportunities, “while at the same time, ethical, moral and privacy issues must be at the forefront of our efforts.”

Today, artificial intelligence in facial recognition software is used by police in searching for suspects and by some retailers to predict buying impulses. San Francisco's city government is considering a ban or restriction on facial recognition technology because of errors and privacy concerns.

Two bills in Albany would restrict its use. One would prohibit the state from retaining facial recognition images. The other would bar landlords from using facial recognition images in dealing with prospective tenants.

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