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Key Takeaways from Biden’s Executive Order on AI

Biden’s Executive Order on AI

Published on Nov 16, 2023

On October 30, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on artificial intelligence (AI) with the goal of promoting the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of the technology. While it presents a strategic step in establishing a regulatory framework around the burgeoning AI landscape, its broad definitions and vague directives fall short of the required guidelines. The effectiveness of the order hinges on the effective coordination among federal agencies as well as the private sector, necessitating a unified approach to the interpretation and application of AI governance, a challenging feat given the rapid evolution of AI technologies. Nevertheless, we believe it acknowledges the precarious equilibrium between fostering innovation as well as ensuring safety and security in the industry. The following article navigates through key nuances of the order, hinting at its broader ramifications: 

Ensuring National Safety in the AI Era 

The order recognizes the growing concerns regarding national safety and security as AI's capabilities evolve.  

As the potential of AI evolves and is integrated into numerous operations, the need to foolproof such AI-aided technologies becomes essential. The order focuses on this particular concern by laying down a few directives. In accordance with the Defense Production Act, organizations developing models that pose serious risks to national, economic, and public health are required to submit the results of all red team safety tests to the federal government. The new order directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set guidelines for efficient red team testing prior to public access to AI technologies. 

With the integration of AI systems, AI-enabled attacks have grown both in frequency and severity. To tackle threats from AI systems, the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security will establish a new set of guidelines. Additionally, by directing the Department of Commerce to develop guidance for the authentication and identification of AI-generated content, the order seeks to protect citizens from AI-enabled fraud. 

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Moreover, already established AI systems are ripe to be leveraged to improve security. The executive order calls for the establishment of a cybersecurity program tasked with developing AI tools to find and remediate vulnerabilities within software used by the federal government.  

Artificial Intelligence

Fostering AI Competition and Innovation   

To advance innovation in the field of AI while building safe, privacy-protecting, and reliable AI systems, the order prioritizes strengthening public-private partnerships. To this end, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been directed to launch a pilot implementation of the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR). This pilot aims to provide researchers with distributed computational data, models, and training resources, with the end goal of supporting AI-related R&D. Additionally; the order seeks the establishment of one NSF Regional Innovation Engine that prioritizes AI work in the short term, as well as 4 new National AI Research Institutes within 540 days of its release. 

The order aims to promote fair and open competition by providing entrepreneurs and small businesses assistance and resources to help with AI innovation. As a part of this, funds from the Regional Innovation Cluster program will be allocated towards the establishment of Small Business AI Innovation and Commercialization Institutes. Additionally, grants up to $2 million in Growth Accelerator Fund Competition bonus prize funds would be allocated to activities that expand the scope of AI. The EO also directs federal agencies to address risks arising from “concentrated control of key inputs” and establish new standards for anti-trust guidelines within this landscape. 

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By emphasizing the importance of AI technologies in sectors such as semiconductor manufacturing, healthcare, and education, the executive order has highlighted areas where AI innovation is likely to bear considerable dividends. Biden’s order has ramped up funding and resources for startups and small businesses focused on semiconductor production. Globally, Gartner estimates semiconductors designed to execute AI workloads will represent a $53.4 billion revenue opportunity in 2023, which is expected to double by 2027. The order draws focus on responsible AI innovation in healthcare technology. With growing demands for personalized medication and rising medical expenses, the integration of AI has the potential to precisely forecast illnesses in their early stages based on past health records and provide individualized treatments. AI in the US healthcare market, prior to this order, had a projected CAGR of 43.22% during the forecast period of 2022-30. The executive order also calls for the creation of AI-augmented educational tools to deliver personalized learning experiences affordably at scale. 


Addressing AI-Generated Content Issues 

The internet has been littered with AI-generated fakes and AI disinformation, and the order aims to tackle the growing concerns of harmfully deceptive content by advancing technology to identify AI-generated content. 

The Secretary of Commerce is directed to identify existing technologies and the potential for their developments to detect, label, and authenticate synthetic content. Consequently, guidelines to detect and watermark synthetic content across the web are required to be developed. This solution, carefully laid out in the executive order, tries to tackle the exponentially evolving landscape of AI, which is difficult to navigate with a one-size-fits-all approach. The scope of synthetic content, for one, is expansive, almost indistinguishable from digitally altered content like autotune and Photoshop. Additionally, embedding personally identifiable information will, on the one hand, help creators take ownership of their products but, on the other, raise new concerns about their privacy.  

In August 2023, Google launched its beta version of SynthID, a tool for watermarking and identifying AI-generated images. This technology also recognizes its limitations and claims that it is not foolproof against extreme image manipulations. Creating a system that accounts for these nuances in AI content will undoubtedly take some time. 

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Ensuring Privacy Protection 

Artificial intelligence systems ease the process of extraction and identification of personal data. Companies developing such models have an additional incentive to exploit this ability because this data further trains and evolves their systems. The order recognizes these perverse incentives and the need to protect its citizens’ privacy. To this end, it provides funding to a Research Coordination Network to advance and strengthen privacy-preserving research and technology. Additionally, it aims to identify how agencies collect and use commercially available data, especially information containing personally identifiable data, and renew privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks. 

Investment Banks

Federal Integration and AI Workers  

The executive order includes efforts to establish new guidance on advancing the federal government's use of AI, as well as plans to attract and retain the necessary skilled AI professionals needed to remain competitive in this growing field.  

Federal agencies, excluding national security systems, are directed to develop and integrate AI into their programs and operations. This integration will create opportunities for federal contracting, increasing the need for specialized AI startups. The order also directs appropriate steps to be taken to “streamline processing times of visa petitions and applications, including by ensuring timely availability of visa appointments, for noncitizens who seek to travel to the United States to work on, study, or conduct research in AI or other critical and emerging technologies.” A study published by the National Foundation for American Policy reported that 65% of the top AI companies in the US were founded or co-founded by immigrants, and 70% of full-time graduate students in the field of artificial intelligence were immigrants. The facilitation of a streamlined visa process for workers in AI-related fields will lead to a smoother and speedier hiring pipeline. 

To conclude, Biden’s executive order is a first step in the right direction. It is, however, important to note that, being a mere executive order, it is vulnerable to being overturned. Given the growing importance of AI, rules and regulations concerning this topic will be put in place in the near future. The role that AI occupies in the economy will only grow more central, and Biden’s executive order demonstrates the commitment of the United States to usher in a brave new world. 

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