Artificial intelligence (AI) will be inescapable for many workers as adoption of the technology will continue to grow in workplaces across the country.
Newly introduced legislation seeks to address the need to help as many people as possible understand AI and how to use it.
Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., introduced the Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act Dec. 15, which would codify AI literacy as a key component of digital literacy and fund AI education programs.
AI literacy is an understanding of basic AI principles and applications, as well as the potential benefits, risks and ethical considerations associated with AI technologies.
“It’s no secret that the use of artificial intelligence has skyrocketed over the past few years, playing a key role in the ways we learn, work and interact with one another,” said Blunt Rochester. “By ensuring that AI literacy is at the heart of our digital literacy program, we’re ensuring that we can not only mitigate the risk of AI, but seize the opportunity it creates to help improve the way we learn and the way we work.”
The legislation would:
- Amend the Digital Equity Act by codifying AI literacy as a component of digital literacy. The Digital Equity Act—part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law—provides $2.75 billion to establish grant programs that promote digital equity and inclusion, primarily by providing high-speed internet for all Americans.
- Highlight the importance of AI literacy for national competitiveness, workforce preparedness, and the well-being and digital safety of Americans.
- Ensure public schools, community colleges, universities, nonprofits and libraries are eligible for grants to fund AI literacy efforts.
SHRM wholeheartedly applauds initiatives to increase AI literacy within the workforce, said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM chief of staff and head of public affairs. “We firmly believe that combining human intelligence’s unique strengths with artificial intelligence’s power is the key to unlocking unparalleled returns on investment in today’s dynamic business landscape. Investing in AI literacy is not just a technological imperative; it’s a strategic investment in work, workers and workplaces.”
In addition to SHRM, the bill is supported by a broad range of stakeholders including the American Association of Community Colleges, Intel, Jobs for the Future, the National Association of Workforce Boards, the National Skills Coalition and the STEM Education Coalition.
“The AI Literacy Act is an important example of Congress adapting to labor market shifts,” said Caroline Treschitta, a policy analyst at the National Skills Coalition in Washington, D.C. “As AI becomes more prevalent, it’s essential that workers have the opportunity to upskill and reskill to meet the economic moment and business need. Digital skills, including working with AI, remain absolutely essential for jobseekers, which is why funding for workers to access digital skills is crucial for workers and businesses.”
Adam Thierer, senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., noted that AI, which “was barely on Washington’s radar screen a year ago, … has quickly become one of the hottest tech policy issues in Congress. A considerable amount of legislative activity is now underway, with lawmakers and committees jockeying for position in an effort to advance wide-ranging AI policy frameworks.”
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for example, announced a comprehensive regulatory framework for AI in August 2023 that includes a new AI-specific oversight body, a licensing regime for AI companies and expanded AI developer liability. Meanwhile, “in the states, there has been a 440 percent increase in the number of AI-related bills introduced in 2022, with 191 AI-related bills already introduced this year,” Thierer said.
“AI education and literacy is an issue where targeted legislation could have a better chance of advancing,” he added. “The Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act … is a measure that should enjoy widespread support, except that lawmakers appear more focused on regulatory proposals.”