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Biden Takes Action on AI: A Comprehensive Review of the New Executive Order

In a decisive move on Monday, 30 October 2023, President Joe Biden cemented his commitment to ensuring the responsible development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) by signing a comprehensive executive order. This directive serves as an effort to marry the progression of technology with the safeguarding of national security and consumer rights.

Recognizing the lightning-fast pace of AI advancements, President Biden remarked that while AI is already deeply interwoven into the fabric of society, there remains an urgent need for governance. He emphasized, “AI is all around us. To harness its potential and minimize risks, it’s imperative we effectively govern this technology.”

Taking Precautionary Measures

This executive order stands as a precursor to more formidable legislative actions. It sets the trajectory for AI development, ensuring businesses can thrive without compromising public safety. One of its key provisions taps the Defense Production Act to mandate top-tier AI creators to disclose safety test findings and related data to governmental agencies.

Furthermore, the directive tasks the National Institute of Standards and Technology with crafting standards to guarantee AI tools are ready and safe before public introduction. Simultaneously, the Commerce Department has been instructed to demarcate AI-generated content, thereby allowing users to distinguish between genuine human interactions and software-generated ones. This extensive directive encompasses various facets, from privacy to workers’ rights.

White House Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, cited Biden’s urgency on this matter, sharing the President’s perspective: “We can’t move at a normal government pace. The speed at which we progress needs to match, if not outpace, the rapid evolution of the technology.”

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Biden’s Personal Engagement

Beyond the executive order’s immediate scope, Biden has shown deep interest in understanding AI’s implications. The President has actively engaged with tech professionals and advocates, seeking insights into AI’s capabilities and potential pitfalls. Recalling these interactions, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Bruce Reed shared a telling observation: “The President was both fascinated and disturbed by the AI demonstrations. Fake visuals of him, voice cloning capabilities – these insights profoundly impacted him.”

Indeed, the reach of AI in Biden’s life became apparent even during a weekend retreat at Camp David, where a movie featuring an AI antagonist served as a chilling reminder of the technology’s potential for harm.

Global Race for AI Regulations

The U.S. is not alone in its drive to regulate AI. As the European Union nears the finalization of a rigorous law targeting AI misuses and with Congress still in preliminary discussions, the Biden administration is proactively taking charge.

The executive order is an extension of commitments previously made by tech companies. As new AI tools, like ChatGPT, enter the fray, the directive is poised to guide their responsible deployment. Timelines for the order’s implementation span from a swift 90 days up to a full year.

However, AI’s regulation is a global endeavor. The EU is finalizing a comprehensive set of regulations, while China has already enacted certain guidelines. Furthermore, the U.K. is asserting itself as an AI safety epicenter, with an upcoming summit that Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to attend.

The tech hub of the U.S., especially its West Coast, is a powerhouse of AI innovation, housing tech behemoths like Google, Meta, and Microsoft, as well as startups like OpenAI. Biden’s executive order leverages this industry dominance, building on safety commitments these corporations made earlier.

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Yet, while progressing AI’s growth, the administration faced pressure from Democratic allies to ensure the new policies address AI-induced real-world damages.

Challenges and Concerns

One significant area of contention has been the use of AI tools by law enforcement agencies. Suresh Venkatasubramanian, who played a role in forming principles for AI under Biden, highlighted concerns about AI’s application in areas like border control. Such technologies, particularly facial recognition, have been associated with inaccuracies and wrongful detentions.

While the EU is gearing up to prohibit real-time facial recognition in public, Biden’s executive order appears more reserved, urging federal agencies to assess their AI applications in criminal justice. Some activists have found this stance inadequate.

Despite these concerns, the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, met with the White House, seeking more stringent regulations. Following the executive order’s unveiling, while there was praise for its addressal of discrimination and other AI misuses, some felt the directive could have been more assertive in certain areas, especially regarding law enforcement’s growing reliance on the technology.

In Conclusion

As AI technologies evolve and integrate deeper into society, it’s imperative that governments across the globe ensure their responsible use. With this executive order, President Joe Biden has taken a significant step towards addressing AI’s challenges and potential. However, the road ahead is long, with many more debates and decisions on the horizon.

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