As the Federal government continues to navigate the world of AI regulations, Alondra Nelson – the former deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) – said this week that a lack of guardrails and regulations in the AI space may ultimately prevent the United States from leaning into innovation.

Nelson, who left her post at OSTP in February, explained during a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday afternoon how regulations can provide a sense of certainty in AI technologies.

She explained how OSTP’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights highlighted the ways in which Federal agencies “could use the regulatory authorities that they already have” to help protect the rights of Americans in the age of AI.

“One of the ways that we addressed that uncertainty is through regulation,” Nelson said. “And so, I would want to also offer that regulation, guardrails are actually not staunching innovation, but allow a kind of certainty in the field of play for workers, for consumers, and for industry, and allow people to have sort of rules of the road that are clear for everyone.”

“Fundamentally, with regards to the employment sector, work issues, and industry, the kind of uncertainty that we have – because we haven’t landed on what these sorts of new regulatory tools and guardrails might be – I think ultimately may prevent us from driving, leaning into the innovation, leaning into the opportunities that might potentially lie here for the workforce,” she warned.

Nelson added that each sector, industry, or entity will have to think about their own, unique “risk calculus” when it comes to the uncertainty of AI tools.

“I appreciate that sometimes people think that regulation and that governance really adds friction to the innovation that they’re trying to drive, but we’re in a moment that the innovation that folks are hoping for is really going to require that we have some kind of shared rules of the road,” she said.

While there is a lot of room for policy innovation to happen in the AI space, Nelson said that “the upside is that we have an opportunity to do something about it because it’s very early stage.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.