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Report: Obama Advised Biden on AI Strategy

For the past five months, former President Barack Obama has discreetly advised President Joe Biden’s administration on its artificial intelligence strategy (AI), aides for both men told NBC News.

At Biden’s request, his former boss has been working in the background, talking with tech companies and meeting with senior West Wing aides via Zoom, with the joint effort culminating in an executive order Biden signed on Monday that sets up some government oversight of AI.

“You have to move fast here, not at normal government pace or normal private-sector pace, because the technology is moving so fast,” White House chief of staff Jeff Zients said, recalling Biden’s words. “We have to move as fast, or ideally faster. And we need to pull every lever we can.”

Aides told NBC it’s the first time the president has asked for Obama’s input on a key policy initiative and he requested it because he and Obama think alike on the matter. The former president’s involvement could also help speed the process, they said.

According to Zients, the current and former presidents see AI as an urgent priority, given the great promise, and potentially catastrophic consequences, attached to it.

During a phone call in June, Biden and Obama agreed that the goal should be to maximize the technology while limiting the risk, aides to both men said.

Biden then asked Obama to collaborate with his team to develop a policy that addresses the dangers of AI, while encouraging innovation. Over lunch at the White House, aides said, they agreed they have a “shared vision” and that the federal government should act quickly.

As summer turned into fall, Obama kept in touch regularly with Zients, deputy chief of staff Brue Reed and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to help shape the executive order, Biden and Obama aides told NBC. According to the aides, the two teams communicated about a dozen times, including as the order was finalized prior to Monday’s announcement.

Biden called AI “the most consequential technology of our time” at the executive order signing ceremony on Monday and voiced fears about AI-enabled cyberattacks and AI-formulated bioweapons. If used properly, however, the technology could help develop new pharmaceuticals and lead to breakthroughs in cancer research.

In a statement released earlier this week, Obama said he hopes to see more AI-related action from the Biden administration.

“If we want AI to be a force for good, we have to be able to stand for something bigger — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do,” he said. “I applaud the Biden administration for taking this important step, and hope it’s just the beginning.”

According to NBC, the White House is particularly concerned about the role AI could play in spreading misinformation about elections.

Nicole Wells |

Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.

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