White House AI Bill of Rights seeks to curb ‘unexplainable’ algorithms

A lengthy statement of AI policy principles announced tuesday(Opens in a new window) by the White House doesn’t actually say, “An AI cannot harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to harm itself,” but it could just as well start with that sentence.

This “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights(Opens in a new window)“, put forward by the Executive Branch’s Office of Science and Technology Policy after months of consultation, sticks to the harm reduction priorities that science fiction author Isaac Asimov set out in his famous Three laws of robotics(Opens in a new window).

But where Asimov was trying to predict the future, this report comes after AI-based systems such as facial recognition became part of the basic workflow for tasks such as applying for a job, getting a job. signing up for a car-sharing service or flying to another country, often without considering possible failure modes.

As the White House blog says about the plan in a paragraph that could land in a future speech by President Biden: “This plan is for the older americans(Opens in a new window) deprived of essential health benefits due to an algorithm change. The student(Opens in a new window) wrongly accused of cheating by AI-enabled CCTV. The the fathers(Opens in a new window) wrongly arrested because of facial recognition technology. The black americans(Opens in a new window) blocked from a kidney transplant after an AI assumed they were at lower risk of kidney disease. It is for anyone who interacts with these technologies on a daily basis and for anyone whose life has been altered by an inexplicable algorithm.

This long document – the printable version(Opens in a new window) (PDF) is 73 pages and over 30,000 words, counting annexes and endnotes – sets out five policy axes for public and private actors, citing dozens of concrete examples of what can go wrong. What this report doesn’t say: Without congressional action to pass meaningful privacy legislation, many of these suggestions will remain unchanged.

Some civil liberties groups were quick to applaud the OSTP’s work.

The Center for Democracy & Technology released a statement from its President and CEO Alexandra Reeve Givens saying, “We commend the White House for examining the various ways in which discrimination can occur, challenging inappropriate and irrelevant uses of data and for bringing up practical examples of what companies and agencies can do to reduce harm.

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The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, provided one from ReNika Moore, director of its racial justice program, which called for “a ‘bill of rights’ to protect us from the use of faulty artificial intelligence. and discriminatory that violates our fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, sent a comment from Jordan Crenshaw, vice president of the business group’s Chamber Technology Engagement Center, who praised the overall effort but cautioned. guard against hampering US competitiveness: is so broad that basic computing and technology could be subject to the same oversight or regulation as highly complex decision-making systems.

The blueprint is the latest in a series of OSTP policy directives as the Biden administration — with some congressional approval in the form of legislation such as CHIPS and the Science Act — has decided to play a more active role in setting science, technology and industrial priorities for private industry.

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Sharon D. Cole