Unpacking the President’s AI Executive Order
- Safety and governance. President Biden’s AI executive order sets stringent safety and equity standards for emerging technology.
- International AI unity. The Bletchley Declaration signals a global consensus, with 28 countries uniting for responsible AI development.
- Ethical innovation drive. The new executive order aims to ensure AI innovation is matched with strong ethical practices and security measures.
On Monday, Oct. 31, President Biden signed a sweeping executive order designed to “establish new standards for AI safety and security, protect Americans’ privacy, advance equity and civil rights, stand up for consumers and workers, promote innovation and competition, and advance American leadership around the world.”
In remarks from the White House East Room, before the order was signed, President Biden said, “To realize the promise of AI and avoid the risks, we need to govern this technology. There’s no other way around it, in my view. It must be governed.” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed added that the reforms amount to “the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust.”
The AI Executive Order: Balancing Innovation with Safety
According to the Biden administration, these orders are permitted under the Defense Production Act, a law enacted in 1950 that granted the White House the ability to play a broad role in overseeing industries tied to national defense and security.
Some experts have stated that the order is good, but not enough. The bill has been seen as a step in the right direction by the majority of people. Daniel Colson, founder and executive director of the AI Policy Institute (AIPI), said that he believes the executive order is a positive step for those who have been calling for safety and regulation for AI. A recent poll from the AIPI indicated that the majority of US voters of all political affiliations (69%) support President Biden’s new executive order. The executive order will put the following steps into action:
- It will require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. Standards, tools and tests will be developed to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure and trustworthy.
- It will protect against the risks of using AI for engineering dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening.
- It will protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content, including “watermarking to clearly label AI-generated content.”
- It will establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software, building on the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing AI Cyber Challenge.
- The National Security Council and White House chief of staff will develop a National Security Memorandum that directs additional actions on AI and security.
The AI Executive Order: What It Means for Privacy and Equity
Other actions in the order include the protection of Americans’ privacy through the prioritization of federal support for accelerating the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques, including the use of cutting-edge AI. Additionally, it stipulates that AI systems be trained while preserving the privacy of the training data.
The order also includes the development of technologies such as cryptographic tools that preserve individuals’ privacy, by funding a Research Coordination Network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development, and the evaluation of the collection and use of commercially available information by government agencies, and strengthens privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks.
Additionally, the order addresses algorithmic discrimination, which has already begun to occur, most recently by an algorithmic IRS tool that disproportionately targeted African-American taxpayers for audits. The order stipulates training, technical assistance and coordination between the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices on best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI.
Global Impact: AI Executive Order Aligns With International Efforts
President Biden’s Executive Order was soon followed by an announcement from Britain’s AI Safety Summit that on Nov. 1, 2023, 28 countries signed The Bletchley Declaration, in what many have described as “a world-first agreement” toward establishing a shared understanding of the opportunities and risks posed by newly emerging, “frontier” AI technologies.
Siân John, CTO at NCC Group, one of the world’s largest security consultancies, stated that “This week’s Bletchley Declaration, alongside the G7’s Hiroshima Process and domestic moves such as the White House’s Executive Order, represent critical steps forward toward securing AI on a truly global scale.”
Joseph Thacker, researcher at AppOmni, an SaaS Security and SSPM platform provider, said that the Bletchley Declaration acknowledges the potential of AI in improving human wellbeing, fostering innovation and protecting human rights. “At the same time, it recognizes the risks, including those from frontier AI, and emphasizes the need for risk-based policies and safety testing.”
What Is the Bletchley Declaration?
The Bletchley Declaration is an agreement by 28 countries from across the globe including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as the EU, that there is an urgent need to understand and collectively mitigate potential risks through a global effort to ensure that “AI is developed and deployed in a safe, responsible way for the benefit of the global community.”
Thacker suggested that the application is very similar to the White House Executive Order on AI Safety. “And both adequately outline the correct steps for ensuring safety — communicating identifying risks, and requiring transparency and testing.”
Ensuring the Ethical Use of AI: Directives from the AI Executive Order
The recent AI executive order by the White House, coupled with the international momentum of The Bletchley Declaration, underscores the world’s recognition of AI’s transformative power and a global commitment to shaping a future where AI technology is developed and implemented with the highest standards of safety, security and ethical considerations. As nations and industries forge ahead, these initiatives lay the groundwork for an era of AI that not only fuels innovation and economic growth but also prioritizes the protection of civil liberties and the promotion of equity.