Google on Wednesday spiced up the generative AI race with introducing Gemini, its most capable and general model yet with state-of-the-art performance across many leading benchmarks, in three iterations.
The American state of California, home to 35 of the top 50 Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies in the world, is once again living up to its reputation as the trendsetter on public policy. Both for the USA and, by implication, for the rest of the world, as the Digital Revolution unfolds globally at an ever-dizzying pace. The state has moved to the forefront of AI planning through Governor Gavin Newsom’s new executive order which has among its key features creative efforts to rethink regulation, government procurement, ethics, and workforce development.
The order represents a comprehensive approach that raises important issues in terms of the need for AI guardrails, writes the Brookings Institution’s Darrell M. West. The executive order recognises the state has a unique responsibility to promote innovation, as well as responsible AI policies and regulations. It iterates that while AI algorithms have the potential to unleash remarkable benefits for the public good, they also pose significant risks of bad actors, unintended consequences, and threats to democratic and legal processes.
It directs state agencies to examine the impact on vulnerable communities, the threats created by high-risk applications, and challenges imposed by new developments in generative AI. Crucially, this policy stance confirms the move away from the libertarian approach that has dominated American tech policies for decades in favour of responsible regulation that improves transparency, privacy, safety, and equity. Indeed, it may be termed the first such thorough executive intervention anywhere in the world which imposes specific 2024 deadlines on Big Tech to generate concrete and actionable recommendations to guide future AI development.
As West puts it, the executive order will lead to new rules, processes, and principles that will bind all the tech companies that operate within the legal jurisdiction of the state of California and sell products to government agencies. The fact that California’s $310.8 billion budget is larger than that of a majority of countries in the world means that it has massive purchasing power. Governor Newsom seems intent on leveraging that power as his order directs the state’s Operations Agency, Department of General Services, Department of Technology, and Cybersecurity Integration Centre to find ways to “reform public sector procurement so that agencies consider uses, risks, and trainings needed to improve AI purchasing. It also doubles down on the principles outlined in the White House’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and emphasises that state rules should address and prioritise safety, algorithmic discrimination, data privacy, and notice of when materials are generated by GenAI.
A tall order, perhaps, but a start nonetheless to reclaim common sense, if not intelligence, by the human race. Policy inaction in the early days of social media platforms created the current dystopia of extremism, polarisation, defamation, and disinformation that continues to plague the world. One can only hope policymakers don’t make the same mistake on AI.