By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday it remains to be seen whether artificial intelligence (AI) is dangerous, but underscored that technology companies had a responsibility to ensure their products were safe before making them public.
Biden told science and technology advisers that AI could help in addressing disease and climate change, but it was also important to address potential risks to society, national security and the economy.
“Tech companies have a responsibility, in my view, to make sure their products are safe before making them public,” he said at the start of a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). When asked if AI was dangerous, he said, “It remains to be seen. It could be.”
He spoke on the same day his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, surrendered in New York over charges stemming from a probe into hush money paid to a porn star.
Biden declined to comment on Trump’s legal woes, and Democratic strategists say his focus on governing will create a politically advantageous split screen of sorts as his former rival, a Republican, deals with his legal challenges.
The president said social media had already illustrated the harm that powerful technologies can do without the right safeguards.
“Absent safeguards, we see the impact on the mental health and self-images and feelings and hopelessness, especially among young people,” Biden said.
He reiterated a call for Congress to pass bipartisan privacy legislation to put limits on personal data that technology companies collect, ban advertising targeted at children, and to prioritize health and safety in product development.
Shares of companies that employ AI dropped sharply before Biden’s meeting, although the broader market was also selling off on Tuesday.
Shares of AI software company C3.ai Inc were down 24%, more than halving a four-session winning streak of nearly 40% through Monday. Thailand security firm Guardforce AI fell 29%, data analytics firm BigBear.ai was down 16% and conversation intelligence company SoundHound AI was down 13% late on Tuesday.
AI is becoming a hot topic for policy makers.
The tech ethics group Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to stop OpenAI from issuing new commercial releases of GPT-4, which has wowed and appalled users with its human-like abilities to generate written responses to requests.
Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has urged society to pause as it considers the ramifications of AI.
Last year the Biden administration released a blueprint “Bill of Rights” to help ensure users’ rights are protected as technology companies design and develop AI systems.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alden Bentley and Lance Tupper; Editing by Mark Porter, Matthew Lewis and Sonali Paul)