The Importance of Deeper Understanding
The sudden explosion in AI progress demands a new class of policymakers who not only understand AI, but also understand it in depth.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recently wrote that “AI … promise[s] to be the most powerful tools in generations for expanding knowledge, increasing prosperity, and enriching the human experience.” All policy areas will be touched and even transformed by artificial intelligence. The sudden explosion in AI progress demands a new class of policymakers who not only understand AI, but also understand it in depth. Just as all policy experts need a working knowledge of economics, all will need a working understanding of AI.
Traditionally, those who have engaged with AI outside the computer scientists have done so only at a high-level, a so-called Level 1 understanding. They can engage with the concept, and perhaps entertain abstract effects, but cannot dig into problems nor imagine specific solutions to them. AI is maturing, and policymakers should go deeper. The goal is a Level 2 understanding, in which policymakers understand conceptually how AI works and the array of core concepts and technologies on which it is built. Although they might not be able to code an AI chatbot, they know how one functions. Although they have not studied electrical engineering, they understand the AI chip deck.
With a Level 2 understanding, this new class of policymakers can meet engineers halfway. More specifically, they will have the confidence to ask the right questions; the ability to understand engineers’ explanations; and, crucially, the capability to question technical experts. This level of understanding brings AI down to earth, allowing policymakers to see the breadth of AI’s effect and the many technical tools on which it is built.