White House secures voluntary pledges from Microsoft, Google on AI

on Jul21
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President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with AI experts and researchers at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, June 20, 2023.

Jane Tyska | Medianews Group | Getty Images

Seven top artificial intelligence companies, including Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, will convene at the White House on Friday, pledging to create ways for consumers to identify AI-generated materials and test their tools for security before public release.

Amazon, Anthropic, Inflection and Meta round out the group of prospective attendees. The seven companies each agreed Friday to a set of voluntary commitments in developing AI technology.

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The commitments include:

  • Developing a way for consumers to identify AI-generated content, such as through watermarks.
  • Engaging independent experts to assess the security of their tools before releasing them to the public.
  • Sharing information on best practices and attempts to get around safeguards with other industry players, governments and outside experts.
  • Allowing third parties to look for and report vulnerabilities in their systems.
  • Reporting limitations of their technology and guiding on appropriate uses of AI tools.
  • Prioritizing research on societal risks of AI, including around discrimination and privacy.
  • Developing AI with the goal of helping mitigate societal challenges such as climate change and disease.

Safety has emerged as a primary concern in the AI world since OpenAI’s release late last year of ChatGPT, which can reply to simple text inputs with sophisticated, creative and conversational responses. Top tech companies and investors are pumping billions of dollars into the large language models behind so-called generative AI.

The technology carries such potential power that major players in the space have expressed public fears about moving too quickly. In an open letter in May, industry experts and leaders wrote that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

The latest commitments are part of an effort by President Biden to ensure AI is developed with appropriate safeguards, while not hindering innovation. Congress is considering rules surrounding AI, though implementing standards could be months or years away as lawmakers continue to learn from experts about how the technology works and the relevant risks involved.

The executives slated to attend the White House meeting on Friday are Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky, Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei, Google head of global affairs Kent Walker, Inflection CEO Mustafa Suleyman, Meta head of global affairs Nick Clegg, Microsoft President Brad Smith and OpenAI President Greg Brockman.

The Biden administration said it’s already consulted with many other countries about the voluntary commitments and is working to make sure they complement international efforts when it comes to placing guardrails around the technology.

In an interview on Friday with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo called the latest pledge “a bride to regulation.”

“It will take some time before Congress can pass a law to regulate AI,” Raimondo said. “But the President, to his great credit, also knows we don’t have time. AI is moving so fast, faster than any technology we’ve ever seen.”

Raimondo called the pledge a “first step” but an important one.

“These companies are committed to real transparency, working with third parties to test the models, working with the United States government to test the models and share information,” she said. “Don’t underestimate the power of that transparency and the fact that they know we are watching and their customers are watching, to hold them to account.”

The U.S. still lacks national digital privacy protections and has been slow to regulate emerging technologies. Raimondo said AI stands in a category of it’s own, and that the administration is committed to working with Congress.

“We can’t afford to wait on this one,” Raimondo said. “AI is different. Like the power of AI, the potential of AI, the upside and the downside is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

Vice President Kamala Harris previously hosted AI CEOs and labor and civil liberties experts to weigh in on the challenges that come with AI.

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