President Biden hails US progress since signing AI executive order three months ago

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez February 1, 2024
Summary:
The White House has published a list of actions taken by federal departments and agencies, citing significant progress. President Biden has also established a ‘National AI Talent Surge’.

 Biden
(Mr President )

Three months on from President Biden signing an AI executive order, which is aimed at achieving a global consensus on AI safety, standards, governance and testing, the White House has said that substantial progress has already been made. And although this could be seen as the Biden administration marking its own homework, to be fair it, the White House has published a transparent table of tasks that have been completed by various departments and agencies over the 90 day period. 

These actions carried out include everything from the White House convening an AI and Tech Talent Task Force, to the Department of Commerce proposing a draft rule that compels US cloud companies that provide computing power for foreign AI training to report that they are doing so. The Department of Commerce has also used the Defense Production Act authorities to compel developers of AI systems to report information, including AI safety test results. 

You can read the full list of actions taken by departments and agencies here, but other notable achievements include a risk assessment covering AI’s use in every critical infrastructure sector and the launch of the EducateAI Initiative, which is aimed at prioritizing AI-related workforce development. 

When Biden signed the executive order back in October, he said that it represented “bold action” and would place more emphasis on technology companies to provide evidence that their AI systems were tested effectively and fit for purpose. 

The AI executive included the following requirements (amongst others): 

  • Develop standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. 

  • Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening. 

  • Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content. 

  • Order the development of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security, to be developed by the National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff. 

  • Evaluate how agencies collect and use commercially available information—including information they procure from data brokers—and strengthen privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks

  • Develop principles and best practices to mitigate the harms and maximize the benefits of AI for workers by addressing job displacement; labor standards; workplace equity, health, and safety; and data collection. These principles and best practices will aim to benefit workers by providing guidance to prevent employers from undercompensating workers, evaluating job applications unfairly, or impinging on workers’ ability to organize.

  • Catalyze AI research across the United States through a pilot of the National AI Research Resource—a tool that will provide AI researchers and students access to key AI resources and data

A call to service

Alongside the White House publishing its A+ grade for assessing its first 90 days of AI ambitions, it also laid out a ‘call to service’ for AI talent in the Federal Government. Despite its early success, the Biden administration is also acknowledging that it needs new talent in government to accomplish its “ambitious and essential goals”. 

Making its pitch, the White House said: 

The federal government has a large range of critical missions—no other organization in the nation is an insurance provider, disaster response team, food and drug inspector, financial institution, and environmental monitor all in one. Designed responsibly and used appropriately, AI can assist in better accomplishing agencies’ missions – and better deliver services for the public.

The U.S. Government is already using AI to benefit the public across its vast mission areas to include tackling global challenges such as climate change and cancer, and improving the quality and efficiency of government services. AI can help process applications for disability benefits more effectively, so the public can access the services they need as quickly as possible. 

AI can help predict critical air safety equipment failures, so that we can perform proactive maintenance and get passengers to their destinations safer and faster. AI can unlock a deeper understanding of our natural world so that we can decide how best to protect and preserve it.

As such, Biden is calling on “AI and AI-enabling experts” to join the Federal Government to advance its research and ensure “the next generation of AI models is safe, secure and trustworthy”. The White House has published a website called AI.gov, which includes a list of vacancies available, which can be found here. It includes roles with the United States Digital Service, xD (the US Census Bureau) and the United States Digital Corps. 

The Principal Deputy US Chief Technology Officer, Deirdre K. Mulligan and US Digital Service Administrator, Mina Hsiang, wrote in a blog:

Our ability to meet this moment depends on you. If you want to work on important and challenging problems, join us. Here, your work can truly make a difference for the public and help forge a future where AI is a force for good that improves the lives of everyone.

There are a wide variety of roles from temporary and long term, early career and highly specialized, technical and non-technical available all over the country.

My take

It’s early days yet and every major country or trading bloc is trying to puff its chest and show that it knows how to best effectively govern, manage and lead on the AI economy. As we noted recently, regulators are playing nice with each other, but ultimately know that winning in the AI arms race will likely define the next century. The US has the benefit of being home to many of the companies that are building these technologies - but other countries will win by using them effectively. It’s not over just yet. 

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