By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

President Joe Biden has issued a sweeping executive order to safeguard against potential threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI). The order, announced on Oct. 30, seeks to prevent the misuse of AI technology for developing destructive weapons or launching highly potent cyberattacks.

The move marks a significant step by the federal government into the burgeoning half-trillion-dollar AI industry, a sector dominated by industry giants including Google and Amazon. The executive order also calls on Congress to pass data privacy legislation, a long-pursued goal facing numerous obstacles over the years.

The order introduces a range of regulations, including oversight over safety tests conducted by companies to evaluate AI-powered systems like conversation bots, such as ChatGPT. Additionally, it mandates industry standards like watermarks for identifying AI-driven products.

Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the ethical responsibility of leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that AI is harnessed in a way that safeguards the public and maximizes its benefits.

“We have a moral, ethical, and societal duty to make sure that AI is adopted and advanced in a way that protects the public from potential harm and ensures that everyone is able to enjoy its benefits,” Harris stated.

Biden and Harris have previously worked on the “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” which involved consultations with various experts, spanning computer scientists, civil rights leaders, legal scholars, and business figures. The aim was to ensure the equitable distribution of AI benefits and address potential challenges like algorithmic bias, data privacy violations, and deep fakes.

Biden highlighted the immense technological transformation expected in the next few years, especially in AI. He underscored the profound impact AI is already having in various aspects of daily life, from weather prediction to optimizing commute routes.

“We’re going to see more technological change in the next 10—maybe the next five years—than we’ve seen in the last 50 years, and that’s a fact,” Biden asserted. “And it’s the most consequential technology of our time. Artificial intelligence is accelerating that change. It’s going to accelerate it at warp speed.”

However, the President also acknowledged the potential downsides, particularly in instances where AI is used to exploit personal data and make social media platforms more addictive, which can have detrimental effects on mental health.

To mitigate the risks, the executive order outlines key measures:

AI Safety and Security: The Defense Production Act will be invoked to ensure companies demonstrate the safety of their most powerful AI systems before deployment. This involves rigorous testing and sharing independent results to verify they pose no national security or safety risks.

Trust and Transparency: The Department of Commerce will establish standards for watermarking and labeling AI-generated content, aiming to distinguish it from authentic content. This measure intends to combat the spread of deep fakes and disinformation.

Privacy Protection: The order calls for enhanced protections for personal data in the age of AI. It also addresses concerns about discrimination and bias, ensuring fairness in AI applications, particularly in housing, benefits, and employment decisions.

Consumer and Worker Safeguards: The order aims to ensure emerging AI technologies benefit consumers and workers alike. This includes leveraging AI for more effective and affordable healthcare solutions while implementing safeguards to prevent harm. It also calls for a comprehensive report on the potential impact of AI on the labor market.

Global Leadership and Collaboration: The administration aims to maintain American leadership in AI innovation and collaborate with international partners to establish guidelines for responsible AI development.

Biden emphasized the importance of congressional action to complement the executive order’s initiatives. He urged legislation to regulate Big Tech’s collection of personal data, particularly from children and teenagers online.

“We face a genuine inflection point in history, one of those moments where the decisions we make in the very near term are going to set the course for the next decades.  And with the position we lead the world, the toughest challenges are the greatest opportunities,” the president continued. “Look, there’s no greater change that I can think of in my life than AI presents as a potential: exploring the universe, fighting climate change, ending cancer as we know it, and so much more. As artificial intelligence expands the boundary of human possibility and tests the bounds of human understanding, this landmark executive order is a testament to what we stand for: safety, security, trust, openness, American leadership, and the undeniable rights endowed by our Creator that no creator — no creation can take away.”

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