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6 May, 2023 20:50

Kamala Harris to run AI taskforce

The US vice president will ask AI execs to evaluate the safety and fairness of their models
Kamala Harris to run AI taskforce

US Vice President Kamala Harris has been appointed to head a new artificial intelligence initiative in partnership with leading companies in the field, the White House announced in a press release on Thursday.

Harris and other senior officials in the administration of President Joe Biden will meet with the CEOs of Alphabet, Anthropic, Microsoft, and OpenAI to remind them of their “responsibility to make sure their products are safe before they are deployed or made public.”   

The meeting is intended to keep the companies on track toward “driving responsible, trustworthy and ethical innovation with safeguards that mitigate risks and potential harms to individuals and our society,” according to the White House, which referenced recent executive orders and official statements reminding tech companies that their products were subject to civil rights law and other protections against unlawful discrimination.  

The four companies, along with Hugging Face, NVIDIA, and Stability AI, will also submit to a public evaluation of their capabilities by thousands of industry experts and other curious members of the public at DEFCON 31, the Las Vegas hacking convention that has repeatedly put the insecurity of the US’ voting machines on display by giving children a chance to hack them.

The White House also announced the creation of seven new National AI Research Institutes focusing on climate, agriculture, energy, public health, education, and cybersecurity, explaining the new institutes would “support the development of a diverse AI workforce” with $140 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. 

The administration is also giving the public the chance to weigh in on government AI policy starting this summer, according to the press release.  

Tasked with stemming the flow of migrants over the US’ southern border upon taking office in 2021, Harris instead presided over a record amount of illegal immigration, earning her the lowest approval rating of any modern US vice president. Last year, she was assigned with developing a blueprint for fighting “disinformation,” harassment and abuse online despite having no experience in the technology sector.  

While hundreds of experts in the AI field have called for a moratorium on, or at least a dramatic slowdown of, AI development until internationally agreed-upon safety measures can be put in place, the US has thus far shied away from issuing any strong statements about the technology. Last month, Biden met with his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to discuss the “risks and opportunities” in the field but declined to address the experts’ warnings while admitting AI “could be” dangerous.