Perhaps due to its lack of its presence in DC, politicians are obsessed with obtaining “intelligence.”
From the notorious operations of the CIA, to the corruption of the NSA, to the FBI’s torrid legacy of weaponizing its operations against the American people, the abuses of the intelligence community run deep. Now, it appears they want to add another agency to their ranks: the Commerce Department.
President Joe Biden, who I’m confident cannot open an email, signed an executive order this week granting sweeping control of the development of Artificial Intelligence to his own administration, the management of which will be housed in the Commerce Department. He did so via a sweeping executive order invoking the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to compel major AI companies to notify the government when developing any system that poses a “serious risk to national security, national economic security or national public health and safety.”
That means Biden will now be overseeing the nation’s technological innovation. I couldn’t think of someone less fit for the job if I tried.
According to reporting from The Wall Street Journal, “The order will require AI companies to tell the Commerce Department how they are working to protect their technology from malicious use…(and) would also require companies to share safety testing results.”
While Biden bypassed Congress entirely with this action, WSJ goes on to note, “Congress has gradually expanded the Defense Production Act to apply to preparedness for nonmilitary emergencies, according to congressional researchers. Biden, meanwhile, has invoked the law relatively frequently, according to some critics, using it to accelerate COVID-19 response, electric-car battery production, baby-formula supplies and climate-change technology.”
According to the White House, “the AI order also will take steps to begin establishing new standards for AI safety and security, protect against fake AI-generated content, shield Americans’ privacy and civil rights, and help workers whose jobs are threatened by AI.”
At the Associated Press, Josh Boak and Matt O’Brien spoke with deputy White House chief of staff, Bruce Reed, regarding just how involved Biden himself has been in the development of this policy. (Because, let’s be honest, no one thinks this guy has the mental capacity to even understand AI, much less regulate it). A quote they obtained in their interview is particularly hilarious.
“He was as impressed and alarmed as anyone,” deputy White House chief of staff Bruce Reed said in the interview. “He saw fake AI images of himself, of his dog. He saw how it can make bad poetry. And he’s seen and heard the incredible and terrifying technology of voice cloning, which can take three seconds of your voice and turn it into an entire fake conversation.”
Reportedly, “The possibility of false images and sounds led the president to prioritize the labeling and watermarking of anything produced by AI. Biden also wanted to thwart the risk of older Americans getting a phone call from someone who sounded like a loved one, only to be scammed by an AI tool.”
I know this is probably groundbreaking information to the boomers in DC, but the tech community has already considered these possibilities. And in fact, it is AI itself that is already on the frontlines of detecting and preventing fraud.
Take the issue of deepfakes for instance, where computers can now replicate a person’s image or voice with astounding accuracy. Forbes reports that, “Artificial intelligence tackles the deepfake problem through deep learning that takes anomaly detection to an entirely new level. It can process complex and high-dimensional data that is media of all kinds, and detect irregularities and intricate patterns within. Deep learning techniques, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and biometric liveness detection, ensure that technology is reading a genuine biometric source, whether it’s a human face, an actual eye or a thumbprint, as opposed to a recreated image of one. Due to this ability, deep learning algorithms can expose telltale signs that can help businesses detect deepfake fraud.”
It’s hard to imagine Biden even being able to process that paragraph, much less come up with better regulations for preventing fraud than those in the weeds with the technology themselves. Instead, his order only stands to stagnate innovation, make it more expensive, and give the government a startling amount of control over information and intelligence.
What’s even more concerning is that these kinds of power grabs create secondary and greater threats—per usual when it comes to government intervention and regulation, there are always the unseen threats. And in this case that means giving our foreign competitors, like China, a leg up in the tech race. As we strangle our own greatest minds and best workers, we handicap them and hold them back from the competition.
Republicans would be wise to keep in mind the part they’re playing in all this as well. Populists in the party have made the tech industry a frequent target both in their rhetoric and in their policies. It’s been an easy boogeyman for them, and they’ve done their best to paint the entire industry as captured by extreme leftists and therefore deserving of punitive government actions—often violating their claims of capitalist and limited government principles in the process.
Biden is using “national defense” and literal war powers to restrain America’s tech sector, and in doing so he’s creating an actual threat to our safety and prosperity.
Hannah is a consultant for Netchoice, a free market trade organization for American tech companies that works on these issues.