White House Gets “Aggressive” on AI With First Executive Order

After a sluggish start to AI regulation, the Biden Administration is finally cracking down on the technology.

The White House has just launched its first-ever executive order on how artificial intelligence is being developed and used in the US, answering long-standing calls for greater regulation of the technology.

The wide-reaching bill addresses pressing issues like algorithmic bias, national security, data privacy, and job displacement in what White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed claims to be the “strongest set of actions” any government has taken to mitigate the risks of AI.

This executive order was issued ahead of Britain’s AI safety summit this Thursday, which a number of global leaders including US Vice President Kamala Harris will be attending.

Biden Issues First-Ever Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence

US President Joe Biden has unveiled a new executive order containing a set of regulations around artificial intelligence technology – in the White House’s first directive of its kind.

As the technology continues to develop at a breakneck speed, the order combines the efforts of several federal agencies and aims to establish “new standards for AI safety and security” across the US.

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The aims of the order are varied. However, chief goals include lowering cases of AI-enabled fraud by establishing standards for detecting AI-generated content, protecting user privacy by passing bipartisan data privacy legislation, and lowering cases of algorithmic discrimination through improved training and legal protocols.

Aside from standing up for “consumers, workers, and students” the directive also addresses concerns around national security, by making sure all AI developers test their products for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks.

Under the bill, which White House Chief of Staff Bruce Reed claims to be the “strongest set of actions” any government has taken to safeguard AI, companies are also required to share the results of these tests with the US government.

“It’s the next step in an aggressive strategy to do everything on all fronts to harness the benefits of AI and mitigate the risks,” – White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Bruce Reed

This order comes three months after several AI developers volunteered to watermark content created by the technology, and seven months after the Biden Administration sought public feedback on how AI developers like OpenAI and Google could be held more accountable.

AI Development is Still Outpacing Regulation

Biden’s new order is thorough and wide-ranging. However, the US’s legal response to AI has been sluggish compared to that of many European countries.

Before this directive was unveiled, the US government had previously issued no official AI-focused executive order, despite multiple campaigns signed by high-profile backers calling for a six-month pause of AI development, and OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman himself claiming that “if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong”.

In contrast, the European Union (EU) passed the EU AI Act in early 2023, which is a risk-based approach that categorizes AI systems into four distinct categories: unacceptable risk, high risk, limited risk, and minimal risk.

The act – which almost led ChatGPT to be banished from the continent alltogether – also forced AI developers to disclose what copyrighted materials were used in the development of their systems, to ensure artists, musicians, and writers were able to be recognized for their work.

Britain’s to Host Global Summit on Dangers of AI

The White House’s New AI directive was published just days after UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered a speech about the rapid development of AI-systems.

In the speech, Sunak claimed that AI has the power to “enhance” terrorist capabilities, including in propaganda, attack planning, and the development of bioweapons. The PM also warned that if the rate of AI development is maintained, it’s wider threat to humanity “cannot be ruled out”.

Sunak’s public address was a prelude to the UK AI Safety Summit, which will be held in Bletchley Park this week. The summit will bring global leaders from around the world together to discuss potential threats around the technology and set a new global regulatory agenda.

As concerns around the ethics of AI reach fever pitch, both Biden’s executive order and the UK’s AI summit clearly mark a step in the right direction, especially as no global legislation on artificial intellegence currently exsists.

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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at Tech.co with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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