Lacking Practicality - Executive Order for Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy AI

The White House just released an Executive Order intended to lay down some standards intended to manage the risks of Artificial Intelligence. I absolutely like the idea of establishing guardrails to make AI safe, secure, and trustworthy, but I am unsure that the concepts will manifest into something meaningful.

It appears that the authors have a simplistic view of AI, which if true, can be easily managed. However, AI is more an adaptable set of tools and capabilities. It is not a specific machine or device. It is equivalent to an edict requiring the Internet to be safe, secure, and trustworthy. Great in concept, but shortsighted in the actual complexity to achieve and sustain.

For example, there is a requirement for AI-generated content to be watermarked, to protect from fraud and deception. We can’t do this well in the real world, much less the digital one. If we could do this, spam and phishing would not be a problem. In the Generative AI world, every time a new tool or process has emerged to watermark content or detect fakes, it has been undermined in a very short period.

In general, the document is filled with mostly ‘don’t use AI for bad’ concepts, but not actual structures to govern, control, or penalize non-compliant practices.

At a high level, there is much good in this Executive Order, as it draws attention to key areas that we must manage, including security standards for AI implementation in Critical Infrastructure sectors. The order supports a long-needed national data privacy law that unifies the collage of confusing and inconsistent state rules. It offers guidance for many ways how the government can or should use AI.

These are great areas to pursue, but the rapid evolution and adoption of AI greatly limits our practical visibility and capabilities in how best to establish meaningful guardrails. The result will likely be similar to what has been seen in the past, ineffective standards, with government regulations that are outdated by the time they are defined, and the development community several steps ahead in whatever they want to accomplish.

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