In an age where artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving at a breakneck pace, shaping the future of technology and its interaction with society, the White House is striving to keep up, balancing innovation with regulation.
Ben Buchanan, President Joe Biden’s Special Advisor for Artificial Intelligence, shed light on the administration's efforts and challenges in an exclusive interview with Business Insider.
The Executive Order and Beyond
Last summer marked a significant milestone in the U.S.
government's approach to AI, with President Biden issuing an Executive Order aimed at enhancing transparency among companies developing AI technologies and setting a course for government agencies. Buchanan, who has been at the forefront of the administration's AI policy since his appointment, emphasized the progress made since the order's issuance.
"There's never a quiet day in AI policy," he stated, acknowledging the rapid advancements and emerging concerns, such as the ease of creating deepfakes and the misuse of generative AI. Despite these advancements, Buchanan pointed out the limitations of the White House's authority in setting standards for AI technology.
However, he hinted at future regulatory actions and legislative discussions aimed at addressing these challenges.
The Debate on Copyright and AI
One of the contentious issues emerging in the wake of AI's evolution is copyright and its intersection with AI.
The U.S. Copyright Office's consideration of new rules around generative AI and the training of large language models has sparked a debate among tech giants like Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, Google, and copyright holders. Buchanan highlighted the administration's priority to foster an innovative AI ecosystem while ensuring that creators of meaningful content are compensated appropriately.
The Promise and Perils of AI
Reflecting on the impact of AI, Buchanan outlined the various levels at which AI can be beneficial, from individual uses to government-wide applications and societal priorities. Despite not using generative AI personally, he recognized its potential in scientific discovery and healthcare, emphasizing the administration's commitment to harnessing AI's benefits while managing its risks.
One of the primary concerns Buchanan raised was the creation and dissemination of deepfakes. The administration has taken steps to mitigate these risks, including securing commitments from leading AI companies to implement watermarking systems and establishing the AI Safety Institute at the Department of Commerce to set standards for content provenance.
The Global Context and Economic Implications
Countries around the world are grappling with similar challenges as the US, striving to harness the benefits of AI while mitigating its risks. Buchanan's insights into the ongoing discussions with the EU on the AI Act highlight the international dimension of AI policy, underscoring the importance of cross-border collaboration in setting standards and regulations.
Moreover, the economic implications of AI are profound, touching every sector of the economy and potentially reshaping the labor market. While AI promises to drive growth, increase efficiency, and open up new opportunities for innovation, it also raises concerns about job displacement and the skills gap.
The administration is acutely aware of these dynamics, as Buchanan notes, "We're not just looking at AI through the lens of technology and security, but also its impact on employment and the broader economy." Efforts to create an innovative AI ecosystem must therefore be accompanied by strategies to equip the workforce with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-driven future.
This includes investing in education and training programs that can prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow. As Buchanan emphasized, "It's not just about managing the risks of AI but also about maximizing its potential to contribute to economic growth and job creation." The conversation around AI is as much about economic policy as it is about technology.
By addressing the economic dimensions of AI, the administration aims to ensure that the benefits of AI are broadly shared across society, contributing to a more prosperous and equitable future.
Looking Ahead: Regulation and Innovation
Buchanan acknowledged the need for a balanced approach that promotes innovation while protecting intellectual property.
With regard to regulatory action, he mentioned ongoing discussions with the EU on the AI Act and the potential for future federal regulation in the U.S. The White House's stance on AI policy reflects a cautious yet optimistic outlook on the technology's future.
As Buchanan aptly noted, the administration aims to create an environment where AI can be used safely and responsibly, ensuring that the benefits of AI are realized while minimizing its potential harms. The White House's efforts to navigate the complex landscape of AI policy underscore the challenges and opportunities presented by this transformative technology.
As AI continues to evolve, the administration's proactive approach to regulation and innovation will be crucial in shaping a future where technology and society can coexist harmoniously.