WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Biden administration rolled out new initiatives Thursday to bring the federal government up to speed with artificial intelligence technology.
Before a closed-door meeting between President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and AI tech leaders at Google, Microsoft and Open AI, the White House announced $140 million in AI research funding. It also said the Office of Management and Budget is drafting a new guidance that will instruct federal agencies how to integrate AI tools.
The announcements are the latest in a string of actions from the White House designed to encourage companies to adopt ethical and nondiscriminatory AI policies.
“This is a very powerful technology,” Arati Prabhakar, Biden’s science adviser, said of AI.
She called the announcements a step in the right direction but said the administration will continue to pressure companies to do more.
“The president and the vice president have been clear that part of managing the risk of AI really has to be how these companies who are driving the technology and driving these products out into the world,” Prabhakar said. “They have to step up to their responsibilities.”
Olga Akselrod, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’ Racial Justice Program, said the White House and Congress must take more drastic steps to ensure AI does not deepen inequities in housing, employment or within the criminal justice system.
“We cannot rely on voluntary measures by private industry,” she said. “There absolutely needs to be more urgency … when it comes to the dangers posed to civil rights and civil liberties from AI technologies. Civil rights groups have been sounding the alarm for years.”
The White House is not laying out broader regulations now but says it is in active talks with members of Congress about policies to protect Americans’ data.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, R-N.Y., called AI “one of the most pressing policy issues” and added, “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
However, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said right now it’s important that lawmakers focus on learning more about the technology and not react out of fear.
“Just like the internet, I don’t think we ought to kill innovation and technology by overregulating based on a misunderstanding,” he said.
Aram A. Gavoor, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, warned overregulation could be a national security threat.
“I think there’s significant reasons to not reel in the tech industry severely such that it can maintain U.S. advantage,” Gavoor said. “Because while responsible development of AI is exceptionally important for its domestic goals, keep in mind foreign adversaries are not as constrained and are using every advantage that they have to potentially catch up.”
Prabhakar said the White House will continue to engage tech leaders, nonprofit organizations and scholars and community organizations.