The Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0) from NIST

What is the Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0) from NIST?

The Framework is designed to equip organizations and individuals (AI actors) with approaches that increase the trustworthiness of AI systems, and to help foster the responsible design, development, deployment, and use of AI systems over time.

The Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0) is intended to be practical, to adapt to the AI landscape as AI technologies continue to develop, and to be operationalized by organizations in varying degrees and capacities so society can benefit from AI while also being protected from its potential harms.

The Framework and supporting resources will be updated, expanded, and improved based on evolving technology, the standards landscape around the world, and AI community experience and feedback. NIST will continue to align the AI RMF and related guidance with applicable international standards, guidelines, and practices. As the AI RMF is put into use, additional lessons will be learned to inform future updates and additional resources.

Understanding the Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0) from NIST.

While there are myriad standards and best practices to help organizations mitigate the risks of traditional software or information-based systems, the risks posed by AI systems are in many ways unique.

AI systems, for example, may be trained on data that can change over time, sometimes significantly and unexpectedly, affecting system functionality and trustworthiness in ways that are hard to understand. AI systems and the contexts in which they are deployed are frequently complex, making it difficult to detect and respond to failures when they occur.

AI systems are inherently socio-technical in nature, meaning they are influenced by societal dynamics and human behavior. AI risks – and benefits – can emerge from the interplay of technical aspects combined with societal factors related to how a system is used, its interactions with other AI systems, who operates it, and the social context in which it is deployed.

These risks make AI a uniquely challenging technology to deploy and utilize both for organizations and within society. Without proper controls, AI systems can amplify, perpetuate, or exacerbate inequitable or undesirable outcomes for individuals and communities. With proper controls, AI systems can mitigate and manage inequitable outcomes.

AI risk management is a key component of responsible development and use of AI systems. Responsible AI practices can help align the decisions about AI system design, development, and uses with intended aim and values. Core concepts in responsible AI emphasize human centricity, social responsibility, and sustainability.

AI risk management can drive responsible uses and practices by prompting organizations and their internal teams who design, develop, and deploy AI to think more critically about context and potential or unexpected negative and positive impacts. Understanding and managing the risks of AI systems will help to enhance trustworthiness, and in turn, cultivate public trust.

The Framework is divided into two parts.

Part 1 discusses how organizations can frame the risks related to AI and describes the intended audience. Next, AI risks and trustworthiness are analyzed, outlining the characteristics of trustworthy AI systems, which include valid and reliable, safe, secure and resilient, accountable and transparent, explainable and interpretable, privacy enhanced, and fair with their harmful biases managed.

Part 2 comprises the “Core” of the Framework. It describes four specific functions to help organizations address the risks of AI systems in practice. These functions – GOVERN, MAP, MEASURE, and MANAGE – are broken down further into categories and subcategories. While GOVERN applies to all stages of organizations’ AI risk management processes and procedures, the MAP, MEASURE, and MANAGE functions can be applied in AI system-specific contexts and at specific stages of the AI lifecycle.

Development of the AI RMF by NIST in collaboration with the private and public sectors is directed and consistent with its broader AI efforts called for by the National AI Initiative Act of 2020, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recommendations, and the Plan for Federal Engagement in Developing Technical Standards and Related Tools.

Engagement with the AI community during this Framework’s development – via responses to a formal Request for Information, three widely attended workshops, public comments on a concept paper and two drafts of the Framework, discussions at multiple public forums, and many small group meetings – has informed development of the AI RMF 1.0 as well as AI research and development and evaluation conducted by NIST and others. Priority research and additional guidance that will enhance this Framework will be captured in an associated AI Risk Management Framework Roadmap to which NIST and the broader community can contribute.

AI Risks and Trustworthiness.

For AI systems to be trustworthy, they often need to be responsive to a multiplicity of criteria that are of value to interested parties. Approaches which enhance AI trustworthiness can reduce negative AI risks.

This Framework articulates characteristics of trustworthy AI and offers guidance for addressing them. Characteristics of trustworthy AI systems include: valid and reliable, safe, secure and resilient, accountable and transparent, explainable and interpretable, privacy-enhanced, and fair with harmful bias managed.

Creating trustworthy AI requires balancing each of these characteristics based on the AI system’s context of use. While all characteristics are socio-technical system attributes, accountability and transparency also relate to the processes and activities internal to an AI system and its external setting. Neglecting these characteristics can increase the probability and magnitude of negative consequences.

Trustworthiness characteristics are inextricably tied to social and organizational behavior, the datasets used by AI systems, selection of AI models and algorithms and the decisions made by those who build them, and the interactions with the humans who provide insight from and oversight of such systems. Human judgment should be employed when deciding on the specific metrics related to AI trustworthiness characteristics and the precise threshold values for those metrics.

Addressing AI trustworthiness characteristics individually will not ensure AI system trustworthiness; tradeoffs are usually involved, rarely do all characteristics apply in every setting, and some will be more or less important in any given situation. Ultimately, trustworthiness is a social concept that ranges across a spectrum and is only as strong as its weakest characteristics.

When managing AI risks, organizations can face difficult decisions in balancing these characteristics. For example, in certain scenarios tradeoffs may emerge between optimizing for interpretability and achieving privacy. In other cases, organizations might face a tradeoff between predictive accuracy and interpretability. Or, under certain conditions such as data sparsity, privacy-enhancing techniques can result in a loss in accuracy, affecting decisions about fairness and other values in certain domains.

Dealing with tradeoffs requires taking into account the decision-making context. These analyses can highlight the existence and extent of tradeoffs between different measures, but they do not answer questions about how to navigate the tradeoff.

Those depend on the values at play in the relevant context and should be resolved in a manner that is both transparent and appropriately justifiable. There are multiple approaches for enhancing contextual awareness in the AI lifecycle.

When properly resourced, increasing the breadth and diversity of input from interested parties and relevant AI actors throughout the AI lifecycle can enhance opportunities for informing contextually sensitive evaluations, and for identifying AI system benefits and positive impacts. These practices can increase the likelihood that risks arising in social contexts are managed appropriately.

Understanding and treatment of trustworthiness characteristics depends on an AI actor’s particular role within the AI lifecycle. For any given AI system, an AI designer or developer may have a different perception of the characteristics than the deployer.

How AI Risks Differ from Traditional Software Risks

As with traditional software, risks from AI-based technology can be bigger than an enterprise, span organizations, and lead to societal impacts. AI systems also bring a set of risks that are not comprehensively addressed by current risk frameworks and approaches. Some AI system features that present risks also can be beneficial. For example, pre-trained models and transfer learning can advance research and increase accuracy and resilience when compared to other models and approaches. Identifying contextual factors in the MAP function will assist AI actors in determining the level of risk and potential management efforts.

Compared to traditional software, AI-specific risks that are new or increased include the following:

• The data used for building an AI system may not be a true or appropriate representation of the context or intended use of the AI system, and the ground truth may either not exist or not be available. Additionally, harmful bias and other data quality issues can affect AI system trustworthiness, which could lead to negative impacts.

• AI system dependency and reliance on data for training tasks, combined with increased volume and complexity typically associated with such data.

• Intentional or unintentional changes during training may fundamentally alter AI system performance.

• Datasets used to train AI systems may become detached from their original and intended context or may become stale or outdated relative to deployment context.

• AI system scale and complexity (many systems contain billions or even trillions of decision points) housed within more traditional software applications.

• Use of pre-trained models that can advance research and improve performance can also increase levels of statistical uncertainty and cause issues with bias management, scientific validity, and reproducibility.

• Higher degree of difficulty in predicting failure modes for emergent properties of large-scale pre-trained models.

• Privacy risk due to enhanced data aggregation capability for AI systems.

• AI systems may require more frequent maintenance and triggers for conducting corrective maintenance due to data, model, or concept drift.

• Increased opacity and concerns about reproducibility.

• Underdeveloped software testing standards and inability to document AI-based practices to the standard expected of traditionally engineered software for all but the simplest of cases.

• Difficulty in performing regular AI-based software testing, or determining what to test, since AI systems are not subject to the same controls as traditional code development.

• Computational costs for developing AI systems and their impact on the environment and planet.

• Inability to predict or detect the side effects of AI-based systems beyond statistical measures.

Privacy and cybersecurity risk management considerations and approaches are applicable in the design, development, deployment, evaluation, and use of AI systems. Privacy and cybersecurity risks are also considered as part of broader enterprise risk management considerations, which may incorporate AI risks.

As part of the effort to address AI trustworthiness characteristics such as “Secure and Resilient” and “Privacy-Enhanced,” organizations may consider leveraging available standards and guidance that provide broad guidance to organizations to reduce security and privacy risks, such as, but not limited to, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, the NIST Privacy Framework, the NIST Risk Management Framework, and the Secure Software Development Framework.

These frameworks have some features in common with the AI RMF. Like most risk management approaches, they are outcome-based rather than prescriptive and are often structured around a Core set of functions, categories, and subcategories. While there are significant differences between these frameworks based on the domain addressed – and because AI risk management calls for addressing many other types of risks – frameworks like those mentioned above may inform security and privacy considerations in the MAP, MEASURE, and MANAGE functions of the AI RMF.

At the same time, guidance available before publication of this AI RMF does not comprehensively address many AI system risks. For example, existing frameworks and guidance are unable to:

• adequately manage the problem of harmful bias in AI systems;

• confront the challenging risks related to generative AI;

• comprehensively address security concerns related to evasion, model extraction, membership inference, availability, or other machine learning attacks;

• account for the complex attack surface of AI systems or other security abuses enabled by AI systems; and

• consider risks associated with third-party AI technologies, transfer learning, and offlabel use where AI systems may be trained for decision-making outside an organization’s security controls or trained in one domain and then “fine-tuned” for another. Both AI and traditional software technologies and systems are subject to rapid innovation. Technology advances should be monitored and deployed to take advantage of those developments and work towards a future of AI that is both trustworthy and responsible.

Cyber Risk GmbH, some of our clients