The conversation around Artificial Intelligence has started to take on a binary quality, rather prematurely, as if we were debating the two sides of a coin rather than a more complex shape. “Let builders build as is” vs “Regulate.” Ironically, both positions are outputs of acknowledging the incredible early power and promise of the tipping point we’ve reached, but neither incorporate the ambiguity. Fortunately there’s some case law here which might help, and we only have to go back to earlier Internet days and the concept of safe harbor.

The DMCA allowed for billions of people globally to express themselves online, prompted new business model experiments, and created guardrails for any entrepreneur to stay legal. It’s not perfect, and it can be abused, but it met the reality of the moment in a meaningful way. And it made my career possible, working with user generated content (UGC) at Second Life, AdSense, and YouTube. During my time at the world’s largest video site, I coined the ongoing public metric ‘# hours of video uploaded every minute” to help put YouTube’s growth in perspective and frame for regulators how unfathomable and unreliable it would be to ask human beings to screen 100% of content manually.

What would an AI Safe Harbor look like? Start with something like, “For the next 12 months any developer of AI models would be protected from legal liability so long as they abide by certain evolving standards.” For example, model owners must:

In order to prevent a burden that means only the largest, well-funded companies are able to comply, AI Safe Harbor would also exempt all startups and researchers who have not released public base models yet and/or have fewer than, for example, 100,000 queries/prompts per day. Those folks are just plain ‘safe’ so long as they are acting in good faith.

Within the 12 month period, AI Safe Harbor would be extended as is; modified and renewed; or eliminated for general regulations. But the goal is to remove ambiguity + start directing companies towards common standards (and common good), while maintaining their competitive advantages locally and globally (China!).

Whatcha think?