Worried lawmakers can help small-business owners harness the good AI can do

Worried lawmakers can help small-business owners harness the good AI can do

Opinion BY DAN GRECH NOVEMBER 09, 2023 12:26 PM in the Miami Herald


President Biden recently signed a sweeping executive order to create safeguards on artificial intelligence technology, as leading lawmakers in Congress call for a new federal agency to regulate Big Tech — and, in particular, AI.


There’s no question that AI has incredible potential to do harm. It could replace many jobs permanently. It has an inherent bias that can hurt disadvantaged populations. It can create work derived from copyrighted material, putting at risk the business model of countless creative industries. Then, of course, there are the doomsday scenarios of robots taking over the world.


This isn’t science fiction. Hundreds of leading AI researchers sounded the alarm bell in a statement in May: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”


But in their zeal to regulate AI, policymakers shouldn’t handcuff small business — the backbone of the American economy, representing 44% of U.S. economic activity — from using time-saving AI tools to survive and thrive. Experts from the small-business community must have a seat at the table to talk about ways that entrepreneurs can leverage artificial intelligence to strengthen their businesses.


Over the past year, I have spoken about AI regulation to more than a dozen legislative staffers working on both sides of the aisle of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. What I heard wasn’t encouraging.


Legislators simply don’t understand the positive aspects of the technology. They are painfully unaware of how small businesses everywhere are using generative AI. As one staffer told me, “Look, we haven’t even figured out how to regulate social media.”


Think of the years of wreckage caused by social media companies run amok because regulators couldn’t get in front of the technology in a thoughtful way. With AI, we have an opportunity to provide guardrails against bad actors, mitigate the inevitable workforce disruption and turn the tools into powerful forces for productivity.


In Miami’s bustling small-business ecosystem, generative AI isn’t a mere buzzword; it’s becoming a regular business practice. Local elected officials are national leaders in preparing the workforce of the future. Two county initiatives — Strive305 from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Elevate District 5 from Miami-Dade District 5 Commissioner Eileen Higgins — have provided training to more than 1,000 small business owners in AI for marketing and sales.


The investment in workforce training and technical assistance is starting to pay off. A study released in September by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that one in four small businesses nationally have adopted AI to improve their marketing and communications.


The figures speak volumes — an average business in the Miami-Dade training programs reports time savings valued at more than $10,000 within a mere six weeks of initiating the programs. It’s not just about cutting costs; it’s about amplifying efficiency, fostering creativity and accelerating growth.


The model emerging in Miami through the visionary leadership of Levine Cava’s Future Ready initiative needs to be replicated nationally, not cut off at the knees.


Businesspeople are often worried that AI is coming for their livelihood. I tell them this: “AI is not going to take your job, at least not yet. But someone who uses AI is. So you must get ready. You have to invest in training yourself and your team.”


As our political leaders try to limit the potential harms of AI, they should include the voices of small business owners in this critical discussion. I commend Miami Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, who sits on the House Small Business Committee, for bringing together small-business owners to educate her on the risks and opportunities for small businesses working with AI. We need more of our elected officials to do the same.


Dan Grech is the founder of BizHack Academy, which provides training in AI for marketing and sales to Miami-Dade businesses through the Strive305 and Elevate District 5 programs.


You can check the article here: https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article281602178.html