Joe Biden Arati Prabhakar
Biden's experience with AI highlights both amazement and concern. It explores the challenges of regulating AI and the potential consequences of failure. Wikimedia Commons

Arati Prabhakar, the chief science and technology advisor to US President Joe Biden, recently disclosed their intriguing experiment: Putting ChatGPT to the test. The renowned chatbot, developed by OpenAI, surprisingly responded with phrases like "OK, kiddo," in its interactions with the Commander-in-Chief.

President Biden was impressed during his first interaction with generative AI. According to his science advisor, she and Biden utilised ChatGPT for several tasks, including explaining a legal case. Even after over three decades in the Senate, eight years as vice president, and three presidential campaigns, one might assume the President wouldn't be easily surprised. However, after trying out ChatGPT last spring, it changed his perspective.

A few months later, he enacted expansive legislation specifically addressing the emerging technology. Prabhakar, who is also the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, disclosed to Wired that she and Biden engaged the bot in various tasks.

Initially, Prabhakar said, they instructed OpenAI's widely popular bot to simplify a lawsuit involving Delaware (the state Biden represented as a senator) and New Jersey (the home state of the singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, to whom Biden had recently awarded the National Medal of Arts), as if it were explaining to a first grader.

Immediately, the bot responded with phrases like "OK, kiddo," Prabhakar recounted. For the subsequent assignment, they tasked ChatGPT to draft a legal brief for a Supreme Court case, composing a song in the style of Springsteen, and generating an image of Biden's dog, Commander, in the Oval Office.

Biden's Encounter with AI: From Amazement to Concern

Prabhakar recounted Biden's reaction: "he was like, 'Wow, I can't believe it could do that." However, his initial interaction with generative AI raised some concerns. Prabhakar informed Wired that Biden subsequently tasked the team with addressing the potential risks associated with AI, ultimately leading to the comprehensive executive order he signed in October.

The order mandates that major tech companies comply with specific safety guidelines, inform the federal government of their activities, and disclose testing results. As per a report by Politico, Biden informed his cabinet during a meeting in early October that AI would be employed for tasks conducted across every department and agency.

"The rest of the world is looking to us to lead the way," the US President said, according to the outlet. Political advisor Bruce Reed has been assigned the challenge of aligning the Biden administration's efforts in one direction regarding AI, but it isn't proving easy.

Balancing National Security and Economic Growth

Various competing interests are at play. For instance, the national security realm is particularly focused on China and Russia's evident utilisation of AI in their military endeavours — concerns arise regarding the potential proliferation of this technology to smaller nations and even terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, officials overseeing economic policy are hesitant about the prospect of American tech companies' AI advancement being hindered by the regulations and requests of other countries, partly influenced by the United States' own efforts to establish regulatory frameworks.

High-level executives such as Microsoft President Brad Smith have previously emphasised their support for AI regulation. From Reed's perspective, everything is interconnected.

Washington's shortcomings in addressing issues related to social media have resulted in a rise in various negative phenomena, from online bullying to an escalation in digital sex trafficking. If Washington failed to address AI, it would undermine the pillars of American life.

"Sure, the White House worries about DIY bioweapons. But, "we're just as worried about what scammers can do," Reed said.

"It will be up to government at every level to help educate people to the threat, and also throw the book at those who take advantage of it," he noted. "We have to be vigilant."