The Biden administration on Monday released an executive order laying out a broad range of safety and security requirements around the use of artificial intelligence technology.
The standards, which range from setting requirements for red-team testing to affixing labels on AI-generated content, could have a wide impact on how AI-focused companies, and startups in particular, develop and release new iterations of their products.
Below, we look at some of the standout components of the executive order, with an eye to how startups might be impacted:
Order: Set standards for red-team testing before public release of AI systems
Potential startup impact: Leading generative AI startups are already wary of the ways their technologies might be used for nefarious purposes or produce biased, inaccurate and misleading information. But the specter of increased regulatory oversight will likely motivate teams to accelerate and intensify mitigation efforts.
We’ve already seen some recent announcements to this effect. In September, OpenAI announced the launch of its OpenAI Red Teaming Network, a group of experts working on risk assessment and mitigation. Anthropic, likely motivated in part by expectations of tighter regulation, announced its support this summer for a set of voluntary safety commitments led by the White House.
Order: Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening.
Potential startup impact: There’s quite a bit of venture investment at the intersection of AI and biotechnology. A Crunchbase query turned up more than 250 private companies categorized in both our AI and biotech industry groups that have raised funding in the past two years and brought in $1 million or more to date. Overall, companies represented in the query have raised more than $10 billion to date.
Not all those companies are engaged in biological synthesis. Few use the term to describe their research focus. However, the order does raise awareness that regulators are paying greater attention to AI-derived therapeutics, and are open to stepping up oversight.
Order: Establish standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content
Potential startup impact: Currently, there’s no requirement for a company to tell you if the content on its website or the advice its chatbot dispenses is AI-generated. For people on the receiving end of such information, however, it’s easy to see why such labeling would be welcome.
For startups producing AI-generated content, the prospects of labeling requirements look like a mixed bag. On the one hand, if everyone has to comply, then no one loses a competitive advantage by affixing labels. On the other hand, it’s easy to see how this gets cumbersome, particularly as so much content has some AI sourcing.
Order: Shape AI’s potential to transform education by creating resources to support educators deploying AI-enabled educational tools, such as personalized tutoring in schools.
Potential startup impact: When ChatGPT burst onto the scene last fall, students were among the biggest early adopters — and not always for teacher-approved purposes. Lately, amid a surge in AI-related venture funding, sizable investments are going to edtech startups focused on educator-friendly use cases like streamlining lesson-planning and personalizing instruction.
For startups focused on U.S. educational institutions, the order indicates that federal funding is likely to become an option alongside venture capital. In addition to potential grant funding, we’re likely to see public schools and colleges more open to spending on AI-enabled tools.
Order: Use existing authorities to expand the ability of highly skilled immigrants and nonimmigrants with expertise in critical areas to study, stay, and work in the United States by modernizing and streamlining visa criteria, interviews, and reviews.
Potential startup impact: Among U.S. startup investors, there’s overwhelming consensus that expanding the number of visas available to skilled immigrants, as well as streamlining the process of obtaining visas, would go a long way to boost competitiveness. That said, no one’s holding their breath in the expectation that, all of a sudden, hiring top talent from overseas will become easy, even for AI industry leaders.
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Illustration: Dom Guzman
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