President Biden says tech companies must ensure AI products are safe

Zeke Miller/The Associated Press | 4/6/2023, 6 p.m.
President Biden said Tuesday it remains to be seen if artifi- cial intelligence is dangerous, but that he believes technology …
President Biden adjusts his microphone Tuesday during a meeting with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the State Dining Room of the White House. Photo by Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Biden said Tuesday it remains to be seen if artifi- cial intelligence is dangerous, but that he believes technology companies must ensure their products are safe before releasing them to the public.

President Biden met with his council of advisers on science and technology about the risks and opportunities that rapid advancements in artificial intelligence pose for individual users and national security.

“AI can help deal with some very difficult challenges like disease and climate change, but it also has to address the potential risks to our society, to our economy, to our national security,” President Biden told the group, which includes academics as well as executives from Microsoft and Google.

Artificial intelligence burst to the forefront in the national and global conversation in recent months after the release of the popular ChatGPT AI chatbot, which helped spark a race among tech giants to unveil similar tools, while raising ethical and societal concerns about technology that can generate convincing prose or imagery that looks like it’s the work of humans.

While tech companies should always be responsible for the safety of their products, President Biden’s reminder reflects something new — the emergence of easy-to-use AI tools that can generate manipulative content and realistic-looking synthetic media known as deepfakes, said Rebecca Finley, CEO of the industry-backed Partnership on AI.

The White House said the Democratic president was using the AI meeting to “discuss the importance of protecting rights and safety to ensure responsible innovation and appropriate safeguards” and to reiterate his call for Congress to pass legislation to protect children and curtail data collection by technology companies.

Italy last week temporarily blocked ChatGPT over data privacy concerns, and European Union lawmakers have been negotiating the passage of new rules to limit high-risk AI products across the 27-nation bloc.

By contrast, “the U.S. has had more a laissez-faire approach to the commercial development of AI,” said Russell Wald, managing director of policy and society at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.

President Biden’s remarks Tuesday won’t likely change that, but the president “is setting the stage for a national dialogue on the topic by elevating attention to AI, which is desperately needed,” Mr. Wald said.

The Biden administration last year unveiled a set of far-reaching goals aimed at averting harms caused by the rise of AI systems, including guidelines for how to protect people’s personal data and limit surveillance.

The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights notably did not set out specific enforcement actions, but instead was intended as a call to action for the U.S. government to safeguard digital and civil rights in an AI-fueled world.

President Biden’s council, known as PCAST, is composed of science, engineering, technology and medical experts and is co-chaired by the Cabinet-ranked director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Arati Prabhakar.

Asked if AI is dangerous, President Biden said Tuesday, “It remains to be seen. Could be."