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Biden Takes the Lead on AI
The Biden Administration's executive order on artificial intelligence will harness the benefits of AI, while reducing risks.
The U.S. finally has a set of rules intended to provide sweeping oversight on the development and adoption of artificial intelligence models.
President Biden signed an executive order (EO) on Monday that should help smooth over some of the insecurities around AI and ensure that the federal government leads the emerging AI race.
"My Administration places the highest urgency on governing the development and use of AI safely and responsibly, and is therefore advancing a coordinated, Federal Government-wide approach to doing so," President Biden stated in a White House press release. "The rapid speed at which AI capabilities are advancing compels the United States to lead in this moment for the sake of our security, economy, and society."
I commend President Biden for taking the lead to implement guidelines for AI. It’s unlikely Congress will move to pass AI legislation anytime in the near future and Biden’s EO, while not perfect, is a good start to reign in AI’s power. In fact, Biden is encouraging Congress to take action, knowing that his executive order could easily be overturned by a future administration.
The EO includes several standards for ensuring AI is trustworthy, secure, and ethical. One of the most important of these standards is the requirement around the testing of AI models.
Developers of any AI or machine based system that makes "predictions, recommendations or decisions" will need to share updates with the federal government prior to and after deployment. Developers will also need to show that their testing is "robust, reliable, repeatable, and standardized," according to the order.
This transparency around testing will allow the federal government to monitor any potential threats that may impact American society including our national security, economy, and public health. Moreover, a directive within the EO requires the Department of Energy to study how AI can contribute to biological or chemical attacks on American infrastructure.
Bruce Reed, the White House deputy chief of staff, calls the executive order "the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust."
The guidelines laid out in the EO should help alleviate some of the concerns around artificial intelligence. A full 82 percent of Americans have at least some concern about the increased use of AI, according to a study by Pew Research.
Some of the main concerns Americans have include the "potential loss of jobs, privacy considerations and the prospect that AI’s ascent might surpass human skills."
Another rule in the EO will take into account equity and civil rights. Government contractors, landlords, and federal benefits program managers will receive guidance on how to prevent algorithms from exacerbating discrimination.
We’ve already seen how AI can be discriminatory. Last year, the federal government issued a statement to employers, warning that algorithms meant to streamline candidate screenings can discriminate against candidates with disabilities. "The use of AI is compounding the longstanding discrimination that jobseekers with disabilities face,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who works for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.
Biden’s EO will also create jobs, hiring some 500 researchers and technologists. Job postings will be available at the government’s AI.gov domain. Divyansh Kaushik, associate director at the Federation of American Scientists tells Wired that "people often forget that talent is the biggest bottleneck in the federal government." Indeed.
In a nutshell, we’re looking at an executive order that will boost federal investment in AI, ensure that companies are producing ethical and safe systems, reduce inequalities, and create jobs.
It's not often that the federal government moves forward quickly on emerging technologies, so it’s good to see the Biden Administration leaning into AI's potential and threats. As Reed says, the order is "an aggressive strategy to do everything on all fronts to harness the benefits of AI and mitigate the risks.”