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Weighing the Impact of Biden's AI Executive Order

By Pierson Marks

Yesterday, President Biden issued an Executive Order that aims to regulate AI advances and ensure appropriate safeguards are in place when developing applications and training new cutting-edge models.

It builds on the administration’s AI Bill of Rights and addresses data privacy, equity, civil rights, and national security. The order emphasizes the need for collaboration, both nationally and globally, to maintain an AI ecosystem that is safe, inclusive, and beneficial for all.

Everyone agrees that the dangers of AI can be potentially devastating.

But how we go about regulation is extremely important. The Executive Order gives broad power to the federal government to oversee a generation-defining technology without explicit (and feasible) enforcement mechanisms.

Some parts of the order are technically not even possible today or would require significant investment, which hurts small-scale companies who are unable to compete with the existing AI powerhouses like OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

When we look at the major supporters of this order, it’s these big guys. These are the companies that have the firepower and revenue streams to play along and ultimately influence Congress to pass laws that make it significantly harder for non-incumbent players to make a meaningful impact in this space.

Looking at history, there were significant risks when the internet was created. But did we have an executive order on the internet and its usage? No.

We have laws that already prevent illegal activity. For example, if you develop cyber weapons (now “easier” with AI), you can and will be prosecuted under existing law. If your use of AI violates discrimination or privacy laws, you can and will be prosecuted.

It's possible that this Executive Order, although well-intentioned, may inadvertently hinder technological development due to regulatory capture. Its enforcement must include the correct level of checks and balances to ensure that AI advances aren't frozen to just the largest players.

It is extremely important to always ensure the safety of the technology we create. But unfortunately, market incentives often force companies to develop software quickly, leading to the deprioritization of security, safety, and privacy.

The United States has a great opportunity to continue to be at the forefront of technological advancement while still ensuring safety. However, it’s critical that we navigate the path forward with care and remain open to dialogue while we explore and continue to see rapid advancements in this space.