Senate’s AI Working Group Roadmap Points to ‘Must-Do’s’ for Corporate Affairs Leaders

The bipartisan Senate AI Working Group Roadmap released last week rightfully acknowledges the far-reaching impact of AI on society and the need for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder and cross-disciplinary approach to policymaking and regulation. While still a high-level policy blueprint, the report covers important ground ranging from the level of annual investment needed for the U.S. to lead in the age of AI, to issues of safety, risk and impacts on workforce and key industries.

The task before the U.S. government is not a small one: Recognizing AI presents novel challenges and opportunities, lawmakers must find a way to create enforceable guardrails with essential protections while also staying flexible enough to accommodate future innovation. Similarly, there is recognition that private industry has an important role to play and must also work constructively and transparently to advance AI while guarding against its risks and unintended – and unwanted – consequences.

Knowing corporate affairs leaders will be tasked with translating any new AI-related risk and opportunity gleaned from the report into defined actions, Mission North has compiled the following considerations and recommendations. 

First, Do No Harm

Because there’s virtually no sector immune to AI’s impacts, it is essential for companies developing and deploying AI to effectively communicate AI’s role and value, and particularly how its use does not create real or perceived harm. This should be unmissable to key stakeholders. Of course, this is even more critical for sectors that continue to face scrutiny by Congress (and reinforced by the Working Group report). That includes housing, consumer finance, media/journalism and healthcare.

Corporate Affairs Priorities: 
  • Codify a guiding philosophy and first principles on the role of AI in the organization, with a focus on ethics, safety, use cases, guardrails and governance. 
  • Align business, organizational and communications strategies for the role of AI in the organization and how it impacts key stakeholders, from customers to shareholders.
  • Communicate transparently – both internally and externally – around what that guiding philosophy and those first principles are with the stakeholders who need to understand it. Don’t surprise them or leave them wondering. 
  • Ensure issues management and crisis preparedness plans are current and account for new AI-born risks and vulnerabilities.

You Can’t Spell ‘Anxiety’ Without ‘AI’

Consistent with Mission North’s own research, a key driver of public concern around AI is its potential to upend the workforce. Forty-seven percent of respondents to our survey indicated they saw AI creating a “more dangerous future” than “a better future.” Organizations of all kinds need to codify and communicate how they will ensure their employees can participate in an AI-enabled economy and workplace to avoid wide-scale disruption and displacement.

Corporate Affairs Priorities: 
  • Understand employee AI sentiment – both their attitudes and understanding of AI in the workplace. You can’t alleviate concern or speak authentically about AI’s upside without understanding the beliefs of your most important stakeholder group.
  • Ensure policies, tools, trainings and internal communications programs keep pace with the organization’s approach to AI adoption.

Prepare for AI’s Unquenchable Thirst for Energy and Data

Living in the age of AI requires enormous amounts of energy at a time when industrialized economies are desperately seeking to decarbonize and keep electricity affordable. Some estimates indicate that by 2027, AI servers could use a country’s worth of power – between 85 to 134 terawatt hours (Twh) annually – similar to what Argentina, the Netherlands and Sweden each use in a year.

Large language models, or LLMs, are only as useful as the data they’ve consumed, and there’s concern we’re already running out of data to feed those models, making new data – of all kinds – more valuable.

Overall, big questions of data ownership, usage and copyright, and more, receive focus in the Senate’s blueprint, but remain generally unresolved.

Corporate Affairs Priorities: 
  • Conduct a materiality assessment of energy consumption and environmental impact around the use of AI to understand impact on ESG commitments, reporting and physical operations.
  • Publish clear guidelines around how data is protected and used in any and all AI applications – both internally and with customer or external parties’ data.

Thoughtful Planning and Prioritization

While the Senate Working Group Blueprint is a helpful gauge on how the U.S. government is contemplating an AI future, it's incumbent upon companies and their leaders to undertake their own thoughtful planning and prioritize timely and transparent communication around AI with their most important audiences.

For additional reading, Mission North’s Co-CEO Bill Bourdon recently shared prescient advice on how companies can take a first principles approach to AI storytelling to minimize risk and maximize opportunity.

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