5. Benefits and Costs

Publisher: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), United States

Principle: Principles for the Stewardship of AI Applications, Jan 13, 2020

When developing regulatory and non regulatory approaches, agencies will often consider the application and deployment of AI into already regulated industries. Presumably, such significant investments would not occur unless they offered significant economic potential. As in all technological transitions of this nature, the introduction of AI may also create unique challenges. For example, while the broader legal environment already applies to AI applications, the application of existing law to questions of responsibility and liability for decisions made by AI could be unclear in some instances, leading to the need for agencies, consistent with their authorities, to evaluate the benefits, costs, and distributional effects associated with any identified or expected method for accountability. Executive Order 12866 calls on agencies to “select those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other advantages; distributive impacts; and equity).” Agencies should, when consistent with law, carefully consider the full societal costs, benefits, and distributional effects before considering regulations related to the development and deployment of AI applications. Such consideration will include the potential benefits and costs of employing AI, when compared to the systems AI has been designed to complement or replace, whether implementing AI will change the type of errors created by the system, as well as comparison to the degree of risk tolerated in other existing ones. Agencies should also consider critical dependencies when evaluating AI costs and benefits, as technological factors (such as data quality) and changes in human processes associated with AI implementation may alter the nature and magnitude of the risks and benefits. In cases where a comparison to a current system or process is not available, evaluation of risks and costs of not implementing the system should be evaluated as well.