New US standards for AI

February 27, 2024

Michele M. Merrell, President, GTWN, Americas and President, Merrell Consulting Group

In October of 2023, the United States government issued a landmark Executive Order1 on safe, secure, and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI). This order marked a significant step forward in the development and implementation of ethical AI practices in the United States. With the rapid advancement of AI technology and its integration into various industries, and even political elections, the implications of this Executive Order are impactful. The implications of the order and the potential effects on society, economy, and international relations are wide reaching.

The drive over the past year to develop AI technologies that are safe, secure, and trustworthy is a response to the growing concerns around potential harms caused by AI, such as bias, discrimination and unintended consequences. Extensive media coverage both in the US and around the world has warned about these possible dangers. There has also been public concern about the apparent lack of controls on the use of this technology, particularly as some feel it could be a threat to democracy, as the technology could be used for AI-powered misinformation campaigns or cyber-attacks. Those with malicious intent could quite possibly test the security of the American electoral process by giving bad actors the ability to flood the country with generative AI that amplifies cybersecurity risks and makes it fast, easy and cheap to flood the country with fake content. This has now made the regulation of AI a top priority for lawmakers and regulators of media, communications as well as the use of data in the US, EU and elsewhere2. The question is whether this rapid response is appropriate and justified at this relatively early stage of AI development, and what will be the implications for the digital tech sector going forward.

The role of US federal agencies in AI regulation

The Executive Order highlights the role of federal agencies in promoting responsible AI development and deployment. This includes a requirement for agencies to prioritize AI research and development that aligns with ethical principles and values, as well as the establishment of standards and guidelines for the responsible use of AI.

Furthermore, the Executive Order acknowledges the need for collaboration and coordination between different stakeholders, including government agencies, private companies, and academia. This indicates a shift towards a more holistic approach to AI development that involves input from diverse perspectives. It also presents an opportunity for the creation of innovative and ethical AI solutions.

However, the federal government has been involved in AI for more than six decades. Reaching back to the 1960’s the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began funding the research and development of the technology, particularly for use with drones and cyber security tools.

Implications for business use of AI

The implications also extend to the economic sphere. With the growing importance of AI in various industries, the development and deployment of safe and secure AI will become a competitive advantage for companies. This Executive Order can be seen as a commitment from the government to support the growth of AI- driven industries by promoting responsible AI practices.

It may also lead to the creation of new jobs in the AI sector, as companies invest in developing and implementing ethical AI solutions. While Washington initially took a ‘hands off” approach to AI development, the boom has taken over Silicon Valley with Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Meta and others racing to further develop the technology. The debate on AI has now shifted as chatbots are writing songs and poetry, and cars are driving themselves, with some fearing the technology can eventually replace humans in jobs.

Moreover, the Executive Order has implications for international relations. The US is considered a leader in AI development and has reaffirmed its commitment to ethical AI. With countries around the world also investing in AI research and development, this Executive Order can serve as a model for other nations to follow. It can also lead to increased cooperation and collaboration on ethical AI standards and guidelines at the international level. The European Union has taken a leadership role in AI technologies that might create the most harm, such as facial recognition and applications linked to critical public infrastructure like the water supply. The EU measures would require makers of AI to conduct risk assessments of how their applications could affect health, safety and individual rights, like freedom of expression.3

Challenges of AI regulation

While the development of AI presents numerous economic and social opportunities, it also raises several significant challenges. One such challenge is the implementation and enforcement of ethical AI practices. It will require a significant number of resources and efforts from both the government and private sector to ensure compliance with these practices. Additionally, the highly dynamic nature of AI technology may require continuous updates to the guidelines and standards to keep up with new developments and potential risks.

Some areas to consider in the development and governance of AI to ensure for safe, secure, and trustworthy technology innovation include:

  1. Ethical frameworks: Establish clear ethical guidelines andframeworks that prioritize fairness, transparency, andaccountability in AI development.
  2. Diverse representation: Ensure diverse representation inAI teams to prevent biases and promote a more inclusiveapproach to technology development.
  3. Transparency: Encourage transparency in AI systems,making it easier for users to understand how decisions aremade and fostering trust in the technology.
  4. Privacy protection: Implement robust privacy measures to safeguard user data, ensuring that AI applications complywith relevant data protection regulations.
  5. Bias mitigation: Develop and deploy techniques toidentify and mitigate biases in AI algorithms, preventing discriminatory outcomes across different demographic groups.
  6. Continuous monitoring: Establish mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of AI systems to identify and address issues that may arise during their lifecycle.
  7. Interdisciplinary collaboration: Foster collaboration between technologists, ethicists, policymakers, and other stakeholders to create a holistic approach to AI development that considers societal impacts.
  8. Standardization: Work towards international standards for AI safety and ethics to provide a common framework and facilitate responsible AI development globally.
  9. Public engagement: Involve the public in decision-making processes related to AI development to gather diverse perspectives and address concerns about the societal impact of these technologies.
  10. Legal and regulatory frameworks: Develop and adapt legal and regulatory frameworks that keep pace with AI advancements, ensuring that there are clear guidelines and consequences for unethical or unsafe AI practices.

In conclusion, the United States’ October 2023 landmark Executive Order on safe, secure and trustworthy AI carries a wide range of implications. It presents a commitment from the government to promote ethical AI practices, fosters collaboration between different stakeholders, and has potential economic and international impacts. While there may be challenges in its implementation, this Executive Order serves as a crucial step towards the responsible development and use of AI in the United States.

Michele M. Merrell is a senior level technology and telecommunications executive with 30 years’ experience in organizations ranging from start-up to mature, private, public and pre-IPO. She is the President of Merrell Consulting Group, a global consulting consortium. She has worked on numerous mergers, acquisitions and joint venture agreements, as well as IPOs during her tenure. Her experience includes companies such as Tyco International, Brightstar, CSPI Technology Solutions, Thales eSecurity, Bellsouth, US Cellular and others. She has held broad global responsibility across APAC, EMEA, LATAM and North America.

Since 2014, Michele has served on the Board of Directors for several international corporations, Cable Bahamas, Summit Broadband and Aliv Mobile Telecommunications. She is the head of the Corporate Governance & Nominating Committee, and also sits on the HR & Compensation Committee. She is a National Association of Corporate Directors accredited Board Leadership Fellow.

Michele is on the international board of directors and serves as North America President of the GTWN. Michele was also named to the Board of Directors for the LeMieux Center for Public Policy.

Michele’s achievements have earned her dozens of awards and recognition over her career for her business and leadership acumen. In 2020, Michele was honored with the Women of Distinction award from the South. Florida March of Dimes. In 2019, she received the “Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award from Celebrating Women International. In prior years, she received the Women of the Channel Power 100 Award by CRN Magazine. Michele was the recipient of the Florida Achievement Award from the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, part of the Office of the Attorney General, State of Florida. The South Florida Business Journal also named Michele as their “Businesswoman of Influence” recipient. Michele was named by the Diversity Journal as the recipient of their “Woman Worth Watching” award. She speaks regularly both internationally and domestically on topics ranging from technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, business leadership, politics, and women’s issues.