On October 30, 2023, President Biden issued an executive order (EO) to set new standards for the safety and security of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The move sets out the government’s intentions to regulate and further advance the growth of AI technology in the years ahead.
Yet the question remains if it goes far enough to protect the American public from AI’s exponential development — and if it does, will this stance from the president’s office stifle the nation’s ability to remain the leading force in AI’s evolution?
What the executive order means for the future of AI
Since the middle of 2022, AI has quickly infiltrated almost every industry. The rapid evolution in AI technology has led to a huge boom in business opportunities and new jobs — early reports suggest AI could contribute nearly $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
But many fear the impact this evolving tech may have on individuals and industries alike. The executive order is the Biden administration’s first significant step in countering any negative repercussions of AI.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed claims, “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.”
Key inclusions of this executive order
The lengthy document provides a sweeping set of regulatory principles. This new executive order is ambitious, outlining the government’s intentions to use AI to achieve several key goals:
- New standards for AI safety and security
- Protecting the American public’s privacy
- Advancing equity and civil rights
- Supporting the American workforce
- Promoting innovation and competition
- Advancing American leadership abroad
- Ensuring responsible and effective government use of AI.
Let’s take a closer look at some notable inclusions of Biden’s Executive Order:
Labeling AI-generated content
With more AI-generated content created by the day, it’s becoming more challenging for the general public to discern between what is real and what is not. This mandate offers guidance on watermarking and clearly labeling AI-generated content so Americans can easily understand which ads, content and communications are authentic.
Supporting the American workforce
This executive order places great emphasis on recruiting AI talent, ensuring America becomes the leading destination for the most skilled leaders in their field. From changes to visas and green cards to investments in resources, tools and infrastructure, there’s a clear focus on making America a leader in the AI revolution.
Promoting innovation and competition
Although the EO places potential restrictions on developers and companies alike, it encourages investment in the space. There is immense potential to democratize AI advancements, giving people and private companies more autonomy rather than relying on major tech companies. Moreover, with proper regulations, the government can drive more innovation with AI technology to prioritize societal benefits.
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What the executive order is missing
While there is a lot of optimism around this announcement from the Biden administration, there are skeptics. Senator Ted Cruz argues these guidelines place “barriers to innovation disguised as safety measures” and that the order “undermines exactly what AI technologies promise to do: create efficiencies, spur economic growth and improve our lives.”
It leads us to wonder what is missing and the potential obstacles the EO faces.
A Forrester senior analyst, Alla Valente, states, “We don’t need more ‘voluntary’ frameworks for regulating AI — we need clear direction and mandated requirements.”
Many analysts fear the EO will become nothing more than words that appear strong but have no practical merit. Lloyd Whitman echoes this sentiment: “An executive order can only do so much, limited by the existing authorities and appropriations of the executive branch agencies.”
Currently, the EO provides an alarming lack of repercussions to those who don’t follow the guidelines. There is also little clarity on how the rules will be enforced — especially compared to the European Union AI Act, which enforces significant fines for those failing to meet standards.
The first steps of a longer journey
As AI continues to advance, there’s a fine line for legislators to protect the people without stifling innovation. The jury is out on whether these guiding principles from the president will achieve this balance.
The consensus is that although this EO provides positive steps forward, it lacks enough detail to achieve its ambitious goals.
There’s no doubt that the exponential rise of AI is set to continue. But although it will lead to massive opportunities, this technology is an area that needs clear and significant regulation. The executive order from the Biden administration is the first meaningful step, although one that is very much a work in progress.