Last Thursday, President Biden signed an executive order that has sparked fears about the possibility of AI systems promoting racial division and discrimination.
The order mandates that all federal agencies develop an annual equity action plan to aid marginalized communities.
While the order is intended to promote equity and address systemic inequalities, some critics are concerned that it could further politicize AI and increase societal polarization.
Biden’s New Executive Order Raises Risks of “Woke AI”
President Biden’s executive order features a segment that Embeds Equity within the processes that the government will implement.
This section charges the Director of the Office of Management and Budget with several responsibilities. These include advancing equitable decision-making, ensuring equitable distribution of financial and technical support, and providing assistance to agencies in promoting equity where feasible.
The guidelines also contain specific instructions regarding artificial intelligence (AI) use in the federal government. The guidelines stipulate that agencies must consider equity issues when creating, designing, acquiring, and using AI and automated systems, in adherence with applicable laws.
After President Biden signed the executive order, several political and tech voices took to Twitter to criticize the initiative as a potential moral hazard. Christopher Rufo, a journalist who played a significant role in raising awareness about “critical race theory,” warned about the risks of “woke AI” in response to the order.
Biden's new executive order creating a national DEI bureaucracy has a special mandate for woke AI. The order instructs the federal government to "[protect] the public from algorithmic discrimination" and to deploy AI systems "in a manner that advances equity." pic.twitter.com/pGKRWdTtIS
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) February 21, 2023
Specifically, Rufo highlighted the creation of a national DEI bureaucracy in the order, which he feared could use AI to “advance equity” and “protect the public from algorithmic discrimination” in ways that might reinforce a specific ideology, instead of promoting neutrality and public service.
This has generated concerns that the government’s AI systems could be co-opted to serve particular interests, rather than the public good.
Use of Biden’s AI Could Have Dire Consequences
The executive order signed by President Biden has generated a range of reactions, with some expressing concern about the impact of using AI to advance equity objectives.
Colin Wright, a Manhattan Institute fellow, cautioned the use of such technology could have dire consequences for society.
Wright argued the order represents a hasty attempt to inject “radical ideology” into government and poses a significant threat to national stability.
In his view, if Republicans assume power in the future, they will need to take strong measures to root out ideological and social elements from the government.
Meanwhile, software developer Jon Schlinkert expressed his alarm on Twitter over the potential repercussions of the mandate.
Schlinkert added that this represents “the worst possible scenario imaginable for our future” and could have long-lasting consequences for future generations.
He warned using AI to promote a particular agenda or create racial divisions could be deeply damaging.
Nothing to see here– just a new Biden executive order that threatens any social media or artificial intelligence company that isn't completely woke. pic.twitter.com/MKwHhduq3z
— Jeremy Carl (@jeremycarl4) February 16, 2023
Jeremy Carl, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, characterized Biden’s executive order as a threat to technology companies that do not embrace “woke” standards.
He dismissed the order as unremarkable, arguing it is just another attempt by the Biden administration to impose its progressive agenda on the nation.