Generative AI — the kind that generates text or images, based on prompts — learns much like humans do: it picks up language, with its vocabulary growing with each human interaction, and stores those encounters as data so it can respond more appropriately. In the future.
Members of the Utah Legislature want humans in Utah’s business sector and the state Department of Commerce to learn about artificial intelligence in the same way.
The Senate Business and Labor Committee, on a unanimous vote, sent SB149 to the full Senate on Thursday. The bill, if it becomes law, would create an AI “learning lab” for companies and state regulators to monitor the latest technologies and trends in AI — so the state can better understand how to regulate AI.
The bill would impose some immediate rules on consumer-facing AI, because while AI can indeed act like a human, that doesn’t make it human.
“We want to put some guardrails in place now,” Margaret Buss, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, told the committee.
Under SB149, companies using generative AI could be held liable if the AI deceives consumers in violation of Utah’s consumer protection laws. For example, if a chatbot misleads a consumer into buying a product, the chatbot is not responsible for that lie – the company behind it is.
“You can’t use AI as a defense,” Boss said.
The bill would also require any consumer-facing generative AI, such as chatbots or text messages, to answer truthfully if asked: “Are you a human?” AI in some licensed industries – including healthcare, mental health and finance – will be required to disclose that it is not human at the beginning of any conversation.
“For sensitive interactions, people should know if they are dealing with an inhuman person,” Buss said.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kirk Collymore, R-Sandy, acknowledged that Utah is generally wary of increased regulation of business owners. But deceptive business practices are already illegal. He said this bill only clarifies responsibility when it comes to artificial intelligence.
Business owners, executives and representatives — even those directly involved in AI programs — have told lawmakers they support such regulation.
Bree Jones, who owns two software companies, said AI is not a niche sector of the technology industry — it is a “mainstream technology.”
“I’m also a mother of two, and I have concerns about the fact that AI has become so dominant, so easy to access and build, that those who are disorganized and perhaps a bit mischievous can really do it,” Jones added. Some damage here in the next little while.
Ginger Chen, vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, said the bill was one of the chamber’s top legislative priorities because it encourages innovation and protects businesses.
Collymore added that artificial intelligence is growing rapidly, and it is in the country’s interest to stay ahead of the curve as best it can. The bill’s AI learning lab could allow companies to test AI capabilities without fear of retaliation.
“At Utah State we pride ourselves on having a light touch in industry and innovation, and we want to encourage innovation,” Collymore said.
Participants in the lab will, in the language of the bill, “analyze and research the risks, benefits, impacts, and policy implications” of new AI technology and use their combined knowledge to help guide regulation. Participants will “identify the things (they) want to learn, and decide what we need to organize,” Boss said.
In other words, the lab will work much like generative AI does now.
Shannon Sollett is a Report for America Corps member covering business accountability and sustainability For the Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation matching our RFA grant helps keep stories like this going; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.