Licensing AI Engineers

The debate over professionalizing software engineers is decades old. (The basic idea is that, like lawyers and architects, there should be some professional licensing requirement for software engineers.) Here’s a law journal article recommending the same idea for AI engineers.

This Article proposes another way: professionalizing AI engineering. Require AI engineers to obtain licenses to build commercial AI products, push them to collaborate on scientifically-supported, domain-specific technical standards, and charge them with policing themselves. This Article’s proposal addresses AI harms at their inception, influencing the very engineering decisions that give rise to them in the first place. By wresting control over information and system design away from companies and handing it to AI engineers, professionalization engenders trustworthy AI by design. Beyond recommending the specific policy solution of professionalization, this Article seeks to shift the discourse on AI away from an emphasis on light-touch, ex post solutions that address already-created products to a greater focus on ex ante controls that precede AI development. We’ve used this playbook before in fields requiring a high level of expertise where a duty to the public welfare must trump business motivations. What if, like doctors, AI engineers also vowed to do no harm?

I have mixed feelings about the idea. I can see the appeal, but it never seemed feasible. I’m not sure it’s feasible today.