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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Biden makes ‘equity,’ civil rights a top priority in development of ‘responsible’ AI

The Biden administration on Tuesday sought input from the public on how to ensure artificial intelligence develops in a way that supports “equity” and civil rights and helps “underserved communities,” as part of a broader plan to promote “responsible” AI.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced it is seeking input from any interested party on how to reach these and other goals as AI systems are developed. Policymakers and AI developers are increasingly in agreement on the need for federal rules, and possibly even a new federal agency, to ensure the risks of AI are managed.

To inform this work, OSTP asked a series of questions on how to protect people’s rights and safety as AI systems become more widely used, as well as questions related to “advancing equity and strengthening civil rights.


“What are the opportunities for AI to enhance equity and how can these be fostered?” OSTP asked. “For example, what are the potential benefits for AI in enabling broadened prosperity, expanding economic and educational opportunity, increasing access to services, and advancing civil rights?

“What are the unique considerations for understanding the impacts of AI systems on underserved communities and particular groups, such as minors and people with disabilities?” it added.

Many experts worry that AI developed in China will contain biases against democratic freedoms in the West and have stressed the importance of making sure AI developed in the U.S. or Europe becomes the standard. OSTP asked how the U.S. might work with partner nations to ensure democratic values are protected but also to “ensure that potential harms from AI do not disproportionately fall on global populations that have been historically underserved.

“What unique opportunities and risks would be presented by integrating recent advances in generative AI into Federal Government services and operations?” it asked.

OSTP’s questions were released along with a report from the Department of Education on how AI will affect teaching and learning. That report also stressed that AI needs to be developed in a way that helps to “advance equity” in the classroom, and limits AI tools that “undermine equity.”

As an example, the report said there is a worry that data sets used to drive AI systems in the classroom might contain “undesired associations or patterns” that lead to “algorithmic bias” that would “diminish equity at scale with unintended discrimination.”

That plan calls for federal spending on AI that will “serve the public good,” keep the U.S. in the lead on AI, and “manage risks associated with generative AI.” That includes work to “understand and address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI.” In this area, the summary says the administration’s goal is to ensure AI systems “reflect our nation’s values and promote equity.”


The trio of White House announcements comes as both the administration and Congress have begun to wrestle with how to regulate AI in a way that allows it to develop, but develop safely. The Biden administration and many in Congress support the broad idea of putting guardrails in place to ensure AI can be trusted and is not used to produce output or analysis that unfairly discriminates against people.

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