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Biden Takes Steps to Catch Up in AI Governance

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President Biden is making significant strides in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) governance, with a comprehensive executive order aimed at setting guidelines for AI safety, security, and trust. This move is part of a broader effort to propel the United States to the forefront of global AI regulation, ensuring innovation without compromising safety.

The executive order, notably released on the eve of the United Kingdom’s major AI conference, seeks to address concerns regarding the uncontrolled growth of AI technology and its potential consequences for humanity. To further underline this commitment to responsible AI development, an unprecedented agreement, the Bletchley Declaration, was issued during the U.K.’s AI Safety Summit, involving the U.S. and 27 other nations. This declaration focuses on fostering “human-centric, trustworthy, and responsible” AI.

The key aspects of President Biden’s executive order include the requirement for developers of cutting-edge AI systems to share their test results with the government before launching new products. Additionally, it calls for the establishment of “red-teaming” to rigorously test AI technologies for flaws and vulnerabilities, with the National Institute for Standards and Technology tasked with creating red-team standards.

The primary objective is to prevent the misuse of powerful AI in the design or acquisition of dangerous weapons, such as biological or nuclear devices, or the development of potent offensive cyber capabilities. These measures aim to ensure that AI remains under human control and avoids potentially catastrophic scenarios.

Beyond requiring companies to appoint a chief AI officer, the executive order seeks to address the creation of fake content, like “deep fakes,” by establishing standards and mandating the verification of authentic AI content using watermarks. It also lays out guidelines for data collection and sharing to protect privacy. While some provisions are framed as requests or guidelines, there is the possibility of Commerce Department licensing rules to limit AI developers.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that administrative measures alone are insufficient. President Biden’s executive order calls on Congress to enact essential legislation, a fact acknowledged by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Legislative action is recognized as the most effective and comprehensive way to address the challenges posed by AI.

The United States currently needs to catch up to other major tech players, including the European Union, China, and Japan. The EU has established comprehensive legal frameworks for AI, along with robust digital privacy legislation. It has also implemented the Digital Markets Act, targeting Big Tech.

China and Japan have also enacted digital commerce and data protection laws, though comprehensive AI regulations are still under development. Despite some overlap in AI and data governance laws across these countries, a global governance deficit in this area remains.

In stark contrast, the U.S. Congress has yet to pass any comprehensive data privacy protection or AI legislation. As a result, Big Tech companies and their extensive lobbying efforts have played a substantial role in shaping discussions on these critical topics. In the absence of legislation, the White House has secured voluntary commitments from seven major tech firms to adhere to ethical guidelines for AI.

Balancing innovation with safety and accountability is the challenge faced by Big Tech. Advanced learning models like ChatGPT have occasionally produced incorrect or nonsensical answers, which could potentially have consequences. The responsibility of the government is to establish rules and standards that safeguard the public while not stifling innovation, ensuring that the public benefits from technological advancements.

The recent declaration issued at the U.K. summit is a positive indication of international cooperation in AI governance. Vice President Kamala Harris’s participation in the AI conference reinforces President Biden’s commitment to catch up in the AI race.

While the White House’s efforts are commendable, Congress is urgently required to legislate data governance and AI regulations. To maintain leadership in the tech revolution, the United States must address these challenges promptly.

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