President Biden Signs Executive Order Setting AI Safety Standards
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday establishing new government oversight of artificial intelligence development and deployment. The move seeks to reduce risks posed by rapidly advancing AI capabilities. Under the order, developers creating high-risk AI systems must share the results of safety testing with the government before public release. It directs agencies to create standards for this testing, addressing related cybersecurity, biological, and other threats.
Safe AI Policy
The White House laid out its belief that governance is needed to realize AI’s promise and avoid misuse, citing potential exploitation by hackers. As part of the new regulations, the Commerce Department will develop guidance on labeling AI-generated items to ensure clear government communications. The executive action also calls for safeguards against AI worsening discrimination, requiring guidance to federal agencies and contractors on avoiding discriminatory algorithms. Potential impacts on workers and labor markets will also be monitored. While praising AI’s promise, Biden made clear oversight is crucial to prevent misuse by hackers and human rights violations. The regulations indicate the White House favors measured advancement of AI with appropriate guardrails.
“Responsible AI use has the potential to help solve urgent challenges while making our world more prosperous, productive, innovative, and secure. At the same time, irresponsible use could exacerbate societal harms such as fraud, discrimination, bias, and disinformation; displace and disempower workers; stifle competition; and pose risks to national security. Harnessing AI for good and realizing its myriad benefits requires mitigating its substantial risks. This endeavor demands a society-wide effort that includes government, the private sector, academia, and civil society,” Biden explained in the executive order. “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. 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.”
The administration explained its plans for setting up safe testing and labeling standards quickly, though with an eye toward not limiting innovation. The order fits with the White House’s earlier steps toward designing a regulatory structure for AI when meeting with many of the leading generative AI companies earlier this year, including plans to invest $140 million in seven new AI research hubs and having the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) come up with pre-release testing programs for AI. The AI rules are broad enough to encompass issues of civil rights as well since AI might magnify human biases and even unconscious discrimination in terrible ways. The order is limited in its enforcement, however, with legislation passed by Congress necessary to put some muscle behind the guidelines. Biden called on lawmakers to do just that, but it remains to be seen if such a bill could pass and what it might look like.
“In the end, AI reflects the principles of the people who build it, the people who use it, and the data upon which it is built,” Biden wrote in the order. “I firmly believe that the power of our ideals; the foundations of our society; and the creativity, diversity, and decency of our people are the reasons that America thrived in past eras of rapid change. They are the reasons we will succeed again in this moment. We are more than capable of harnessing AI for justice, security, and opportunity for all.”