California aims for measured approach on AI

By Published On: November 3, 2023

President Joe Biden this week issued a landmark executive order aimed at positioning the United States as a global leader in the development and responsible use of artificial intelligence, garnering widespread support and receiving praise from California Governor Gavin Newsom, who commended the administration’s focus on responsible AI innovation, privacy protection, equity advancement, and worker support.

“This is a measured approach that focuses on the right priorities – protecting the American people and our privacy, advancing equity, supporting workers, and promoting innovation,” Gov. Newsom said in a recent statement. 

California stands as the world’s AI innovation hub, presenting the opportunity for a working relationship between government and academia in the mission to foster ethical AI development. 

As the two sectors tiptoe the line between advancement and safeguarding the public, the state has a chance to lean on its relationship with the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Computing, Data Science, and Society and Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, along with 35 of the world’s top 50 AI companies

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a speech outlining the administration’s vision for AI that “[w]e reject the false choice that suggests we can either protect the public or advance innovation. We can — and we must — do both. And we must do so swiftly, as this technology rapidly advances.”

Back in June, President Biden met at the Fairmont Hotel to speak about the risks of artificial intelligence with Gov. Newsom, as well as Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology, among other leaders in the field. 

The executive order calls for large agencies to develop public strategies for advancing AI maturity and removing barriers to AI use, recognizing that it can enhance the efficiency of government services. It also promotes a National AI Talent Surge to attract professionals to the federal government, addressing the need for expertise within government agencies.

“The interests of Americans who increasingly use, interact with, or purchase AI and AI-enabled products in their daily lives must be protected,” the order reads. “Use of new technologies, such as AI, does not excuse organizations from their legal obligations, and hard-won consumer protections are more important than ever in moments of technological change.”

The federal government is still in a position to enforce existing consumer protection laws, especially in the fields of healthcare, financial service, education, and housing, where a potential misuse of AI could directly impact the well-being of the public. 

“AI is all around us,” Biden said prior to signing the order. “To realize the promise of AI and avoid the risk, we need to govern this technology.”

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org