When President Joe Biden issued an executive order in November 2023 to regulate artificial intelligence, it raised concerns about the government taking on this level of authority with such a powerful form of technology.
The order is ostensibly intended to crack down on the supposed effects of “algorithmic discrimination” and make sure that AI is used to promote equity and civil rights.
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is ridiculous.
Even worse, the president is using the Defense Production Act (DPA) to assert this authority over the industry. Nevertheless, the state has now expanded itself further thanks to this administration.
One component of the executive order is that it seeks to use the power of the state to address “algorithmic discrimination” and ensure that AI technology somehow advances equity and civil rights.
Irresponsible uses of AI can lead to and deepen discrimination, bias, and other abuses in justice, healthcare, and housing. The Biden-Harris Administration has already taken action by publishing the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and issuing an Executive Order directing agencies to combat algorithmic discrimination, while enforcing existing authorities to protect people’s rights and safety. To ensure that AI advances equity and civil rights, the President directs the following additional actions:
Provide clear guidance to landlords, Federal benefits programs, and federal contractors to keep AI algorithms from being used to exacerbate discrimination.
Address algorithmic discrimination through training, technical assistance, and coordination between the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices on best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI.
Ensure fairness throughout the criminal justice system by developing best practices on the use of AI in sentencing, parole and probation, pretrial release and detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting and predictive policing, and forensic analysis.
Several Republican state attorneys general have banded together to push back against Biden’s executive order, including Sean D. Reyes (UT), Steve Marshall (AL), Tim Griffin (AK), Ashley Moody (FL), Raul Labrador (ID), and Brenna Baird (IA). They signed on to a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, urging her to reconsider how this order is implemented.
The Executive Order seeks—without Congressional authorization—to centralize governmental control over an emerging technology being developed by the private sector. In doing so, the Executive Order opens the door to using the federal government’s control over AI for political ends, such as censoring responses in the name of combatting “disinformation.” Through the RFI, NIST seeks to implement the Executive Order by setting standards for AI risk management, evaluation, and red-teaming. Some portions of this comment are broader than the specific requests in the RFI but are offered to set forth key issues that must govern the federal government’s approach to AI. We urge you not to attempt to centralize control over AI being developed in the U.S. or otherwise create barriers to entry in this critical and growing sector of our economy.
The officials argue that the order could stifle innovation in the AI field while also introducing the possibility for misuse and politically biased censorship under the guise of combating “misinformation.”
There were also concerns about how far Biden is going with this executive order, especially without congressional backing. The argument that the Defense Production Act grants the president this type of power is tenuous at best. In the letter, the attorneys general point out that it does not allow the state to regulate technological development without Congress passing a law to that effect. But this is not the first time this president has sought to use the legislation to assert control over various aspects of industry.
Moreover, the order could pose a problem for small businesses seeking to compete in the AI market. Adding on more regulations will only make it easier for larger enterprises to maintain their dominance in the field by making it cost-prohibitive for smaller competitors to comply with new regulations.
All in all, Biden’s executive order will only make potential problems with AI worse. It will take more than a strongly-worded letter to halt this agenda.