Biden issues first AI regulations in executive order

White House announcement comes amid flurry of global AI concerns and predictions

US President Joe Biden on Monday signed the first executive order targeting artificial intelligence. AFP
Powered by automated translation

US President Joe Biden on Monday announced an executive order “to ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of artificial intelligence”.

“Without safeguards, AI can put Americans’ privacy further at risk. AI not only makes it easier to extract, identify and exploit personal data, but it also heightens incentives to do so because companies use data to train AI systems,” the White House said in a statement.

The executive order pushes for developers of “the most powerful AI systems” to share their software safety test results with the US government, develop standards to help ensure AI systems are “secure and trustworthy” and protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by “establishing standards and best practices for detected AI-generated content and authenticating content”.

The order also acknowledges the tremendous potential upside of AI and encourages the acceleration of vital AI standards along with the “deployment of AI abroad to solve global challenges”.

The announcement comes days before British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is scheduled to host a global AI summit, where he is expected to push for more global co-operation and consensus on the risks and potential benefits.

Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced an AI advisory body seeking to examine the challenges presented, as well as the opportunities for international governance.

“Thanks to one AI app, I had the surreal experience of watching myself deliver a speech in flawless Chinese, despite the fact that I don’t speak Chinese," said Mr Guterres. “The lip movement corresponded exactly to what I was saying,” he continued, referring to the technological triumph and potential deceptive dangers stemming from AI.

Several weeks ago, AI proved to be the prominent topic at the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils annual meeting in Dubai, where experts and world leaders discussed how to deal with the fast-moving technology in the future.

“How do we retain power over entities more powerful than ourselves forever?” asked Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “What’s clear is that we had better produce an answer to that question before we develop those machines that are more powerful than ourselves.”

Mr Biden's executive order also comes amid a fast-approaching 2024 presidential election, for which some of the first AI-generated campaign ads have already hit the airwaves and social media feeds in the US and around the world.

Democratic and Republican congressional members have expressed concerns regarding AI and at several policy meetings, Big Tech leaders have scrutinised implementations that can match or exceed human performance across various tasks.

Thus far, although numerous pieces of legislation have been proposed, minimal comprehensive action has been taken by Washington.

Most of the action taken by Big Tech companies in the US has been voluntary, such as an agreement signed by various companies in September that would require disclosure and potential watermarks on content created by AI systems.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 2:23 PM