The Impact of President Biden's Executive Order on AI in the US Government
This article provides an in-depth analysis of President Joe Biden's sweeping new executive order, which aims to broadly incorporate artificial intelligence in the US government and regulate commercial AI more tightly. The implications of this order, the roles of both public and private entities, and the potential challenges are discussed.
President Joe Biden has recently issued a comprehensive executive order to bring the US government into the era of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence. This order, which includes an extensive list of directives for federal agencies to fulfill within the next year, underscores the US government's commitment to embracing AI and controlling commercial AI more tightly.
"President Biden's executive order on AI represents a pivotal moment in the US government's approach to artificial intelligence, with potentially far-reaching implications for the field."
The Order's Directives and Implications
The new order outlines reporting requirements for companies developing powerful AI technology, such as the technology behind OpenAI's ChatGPT. Under the Defense Production Act, companies must disclose crucial information to the government, including their cybersecurity measures and, when training a new model. This directive intends to scrutinize and mitigate AI technology's potential risks to national security, public health, and the economy.
Another critical aspect of the order requires companies that develop, acquire, or possess large-scale computing clusters—crucial for training potent AI systems—to report their activities to the federal government. This measure aims to help the government understand which entities, including competing nations, have robust AI capabilities.
The order also mandates the Department of Energy to examine how AI outputs can contribute to biological or chemical attacks or cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. The UK government also recently acknowledged the potential threat of advanced AI enabling such attacks.
Bruce Reed, White House deputy chief of staff and chair of the newly formed White House AI Council, describes the order as “the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust.”
Boosting AI in the US Government
The executive order also includes measures to enhance AI within the US government. Notably, it calls for a dedicated job portal at AI.gov to attract more experts and researchers familiar with the technology. Furthermore, it proposes a new training program to produce 500 AI researchers by 2025.
Divyansh Kaushik, an associate director at the Federation of American Scientists policy research group, praises these initiatives. He notes that talent is often the biggest bottleneck in the federal government and believes these measures could significantly address this issue.
Changes to Immigration Policy to Attract AI Talent
President Biden’s order also demands changes to immigration policy to make it easier for AI talent to come to the US. The proposed plan to allow immigrant workers to renew their visas within the US could eliminate the need for hundreds of thousands of STEM students to travel back to their home countries for in-person interviews. Although the US currently has most of the world's top AI talent, only 20% of them received undergraduate degrees in the US, indicating that many are immigrants.
Potential Challenges and Future Directions
Despite the ambitious and comprehensive nature of President Biden's executive order, it's important to note that some critical government use cases for AI in the US will largely remain unaffected. The directives apply to federal agencies, leaving out much of the AI used in criminal justice and policing deployed by state and local law enforcement.
For state agencies to adopt the standards in the executive order, federal lawmakers could make compliance a condition of funding for state and local law enforcement agencies. This represents a potential avenue for expanding the influence of the executive order and ensuring a more uniform approach to AI across all levels of government.
As the first executive order of the Biden presidency solely focused on artificial intelligence, this directive indicates the administration's commitment to AI. It follows two previous orders by former president Trump, issued in 2019 and 2020. However, the success of this new order will depend on its effective implementation and compliance, which has needed to be more consistent in the past.