Biden Issues ‘Landmark’ Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday issued the first-ever executive order regulating artificial intelligence, imposing sweeping new consumer, security and rights protections, while also striving to promote innovation and competition.
In a call with reporters on Sunday, a senior administration official acknowledged that 15 U.S. technology firms have agreed to implement voluntary AI protocols, but said the president believed the voluntary initiatives simply didn’t go far enough to provide the level of protection he envisioned.
“Several months ago, the president directed his team to pull every lever, and that’s what this order does,” the official said. “It brings the power of the federal government to bear in a wide range of areas to manage AI’s risks and harness its benefits.”
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed was even more effusive in a statement released by the White House, calling the executive order “the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security and trust.”
“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,” Reed said.
Prior to a ceremony in the East Room marking the signing of the order, the White House distributed a fact sheet breaking it down into eight key components.
Under the executive order the administration and its agencies will:
- Create new safety and security standards for AI, including by requiring some AI companies to share safety test results with the federal government. It also directs the Commerce Department to create guidance for AI watermarking, and established a cybersecurity program that can make AI tools that help identify flaws in critical software.
- Protect consumer privacy, including by creating guidelines that agencies can use to evaluate privacy techniques used in AI.
- Advance equity and civil rights by providing guidance to landlords and federal contractors to help avoid AI algorithms furthering discrimination, and creating best practices on the appropriate role of AI in risk assessment, sentencing and other aspects of the justice system.
- Protect patients and students by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to create a program to evaluate potentially harmful AI-related health care practices and creating resources on how educators can responsibly use AI tools.
- Support workers by producing a report on the potential labor market implications of AI and studying the ways the federal government could support workers affected by a disruption to the labor market.
- Promote innovation and competition by expanding grants for AI research in areas such as climate change and modernizing the criteria for highly skilled immigrant workers with key expertise to stay in the U.S.
- Work with international partners to implement global AI standards, develop guidance for federal agencies’ use and procurement of AI, and speed up the government’s hiring of workers skilled in the field. Toward that end, beginning Monday, workers with AI expertise can find relevant openings in the federal government on AI.gov.
The entire fact sheet can be found here.
Before signing the order, Biden said AI is driving change at “warp speed” and carries tremendous potential as well as perils.
“AI is all around us,” Biden said. “To realize the promise of AI and avoid the risk, we need to govern this technology.”
During the call with reporters on Sunday, the senior administration official said many of the safety and security aspects of the order involve a 90-day turnaround, while others may take as long as a year to be completed.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and himself a former technology entrepreneur, said Monday that he was impressed by the breadth of the order.
Warner said many of the order’s sections closely align with his and his committee’s efforts around AI safety and security and the federal government’s use of artificial intelligence.
He said he was also pleased to see “sections devoted to increasing AI workforce inside and outside of government, federal procurement and global engagement.”
“At the same time, many of these just scratch the surface — particularly in areas like health care and competition policy,” Warner said.
“Other areas overlap pending bipartisan legislation, such as the provision related to national security use of AI, which duplicates some of the work in the past two Intel[ligence] Authorization Acts related to AI governance,” he said.
“While this is a good step forward, we need additional legislative measures … that prioritize security, combat bias and harmful misuse, and responsibly roll out technologies,” Warner said.
A similar theme was expressed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who called the president’s executive order both “a crucial step” and “a massive step forward” in a written statement.
Schumer went on, however, to say that “all executive orders are limited in what they do.”
“So it is now on Congress to augment, expand and cement this massive start with legislation,” he said. “The Senate will continue to work in bipartisan fashion, in conjunction with the president and his administration, to build upon this momentum.
“Congress must now act with urgency and humility,” Schumer said. “Urgency, because we can’t wait while other countries are gaining on us and humility because the task of ensuring sustained investment to advance AI innovation and setting commonsense guardrails is a powerful and challenging one.”
In related news, Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the United Kingdom on Tuesday for a two day visit during which she’ll work to advance the administration’s goals related to AI with international stakeholders.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will accompany the vice president on the trip.
Vice President Harris will speak first at the U.S. Embassey in London, where she will deliver what the White House called “a major speech” on the administration’s vision for the future of AI and the steps it is taking to realize that vision.
According to a senior administration official, Harris will make the case that when it comes to AI safety, nations and other stakeholders must address the full spectrum of risk, from potentially catastrophic risks to societal harms that are already happening such bias, discrimination and the proliferation of misinformation.
“She will also call for the future of AI to be based in the public interest,” the official said. “And she will make clear we are leading by example and that our domestic actions are a model for global action.”
On Thursday, the vice president will travel to Bletchley Park, once the top-secret home of the World War II Codebreakers, in Milton Keynes, to attend the Global Summit on AI Safety.
The summit will include foreign leaders, business executives, and civil society, and she will advocate for international rules and norms that keep pace with innovation.