Biden’s Executive Order: A ‘Bold Step’ for AI Safety

Published on
31/10/2023 02:54 PM
Biden Executive order AI

US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order focused on protecting US citizens from the risks of AI and establishing guardrails for its development.

The sweeping order, described by the White House as “the most significant actions ever taken by any government to advance the field of AI safety,” will require tech firms working on dangerous models to share safety data with the government before release. 

It hopes to address a range of different risks that come with the advancement of AI, including the public’s safety and privacy, innovation, job loss, as well algorithmic bias. 

"The actions that President Biden directed today are vital steps forward in the US' approach on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI", the White House announced in a statement Monday. 

"More action will be required, and the Administration will continue to work with Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation."

Multiple government agencies will be tasked with creating standards to establish best practices around content authentication, build advanced cybersecurity programs, and protect against the use of AI to create biological materials. 

The National Institute of Standards and Safety (NIST), for instance, will be responsible for developing technical safety tests and standards for the technology, while the Department of Commerce will work to develop guidelines to label AI-generated content using watermarking techniques to tackle the recent surge in disinformation and ‘deepfakes’ generated by AI,

The National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff will also be getting involved, working to establish a National Security Memorandum instructing military and intelligence agencies on how to use AI "safely, ethically and effectively" to carry out military missions

President Biden also urged Congress to pass new legislation to protect Americans' data, including funding new efforts to build cryptographic tools capable of preserving their privacy such as any personally identifiable information scraped from the internet.

‘A monumental moment’

Announcing the safety measures, President Biden vowed to "harness the power of AI while keeping Americans safe".

“We’re going to see more technological change in the next 10, maybe next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years.” “AI is all around us. Much of it is making our lives better … but in some cases, AI is making life worse.”

The move is the first landmark action taken by the US government to introduce concrete regulations for AI development and minimise its risk to society. 

It follows similar discussions from over the pond, where the EU’s AI act is set to introduce an AI rulebook to protect EU citizens from “AI systems that present an “unacceptable level of risk,” such as predictive policing tools or real-time facial recognition software, and introduce new regulatory requirements on generative AI tools including OpenAI’s ChatGPT. 

Eduardo Azanza, CEO of the face and voice authentication platform Veridas, described this recent progress in regulating the tech as a “monumental moment for the safe, secure and ethical development and use of AI.”

“With Europe currently working on the EU AI Act, the US is looking to join the developing global precedent being established, which will determine how countries and organizations should approach AI. We will surely begin to see a cascading trend of similar legal actions across the globe,” said Mr Azanza. 

The White House has taken a global perspective necessary for implementing regulations that account for risks and benefits, security, privacy, innovation and non-discrimination.

“It is paramount that we strike a balance between reaping the benefits of AI and mitigating its potential downsides.” 

Undermining the UK’s AI Safety Summit?

Biden’s order arrives days before the UK’s landmark AI safety summit, which was announced by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this year as a way to unite global leaders in establishing concrete laws for AI development and make the UK the centre of AI regulation.

UK ai safety summit
The UK's AI safety summit with take place at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Photo: Chris Dorney

Mr Sunak has previously been criticised for focusing too much on the existential threats, like humanity losing control of the tech, rather than near-term challenges like its impact on the 

Still, he hopes the summit will cement the UK's status as a leading AI power, despite expected absentees including Canada's Justin Trudeau, France's Emmanuel Macron, and Germany's Olaf Scholz.

Biden won’t be attending either. He'll be sending Vice President Kamala Harris to represent the US at the summit instead. 

Asked whether Mr Sunak feels like he’s been snubbed by Biden’s announcement, his spokesperson said: “No, not at all.”

“We remain confident that we have brought together the right group of world experts in the AI space, leading businesses, and indeed world leaders and representatives who will be able to take on this vital issue,” the spokesperson added. 

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