Governor Newsom Orders Study of GenAI Benefits and Risks

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order for state agencies to study artificial intelligence and its impact on society and the economy. “We’re only scratching the surface of understanding what GenAI is capable of,” Newsom suggested. Recognizing “both the potential benefits and risks these tools enable,” he said his administration is “neither frozen by the fears nor hypnotized by the upside.” The move was couched as a “measured approach” that will help California “focus on shaping the future of ethical, transparent, and trustworthy AI, while remaining the world’s AI leader.”

The executive order sets the stage for potential regulation around generative AI, which Los Angeles Times reports “has already raised concerns about misinformation, plagiarism, bias and child safety,” adding that “the governor and California lawmakers thus far have been cautious about regulating technology they might not fully understand and hindering business innovations that fuel the state’s economy.”

Per the order, California agencies including the Department of Technology and the Office of Data and Innovation, among others, must analyze the beneficial ways generative AI can be used by the state as well as its potential impact on critical infrastructure.

“The governor also ordered the agencies to look at potential AI risks to individuals, communities and state workers,” writes LA Times, adding “they have until January 2024 to issue guidelines for the procurement, uses and training required for use of generative AI.”

Calling California “a trendsetter,” Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation senior fellow Darrell West told LA Times that the comprehensive EO could influence action taken at the federal level and by other states. “If one large state makes a major movement it’s going to force the tech companies to come along, whether they want to or not,” explained West.

Newsom’s office issued a statement that points out California has itself generated “35 of the world’s top 50 AI companies and a quarter of all AI patents, conference papers, and companies globally.”

Newsom also acknowledged the state’s world-leading GenAI research institutions, including Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and the University of California Berkeley’s College of Computing, Data Science, and Society. The University of Southern California in March launched the Center for Generative AI and Society.

A joint effort between the School of Cinematic Arts and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Center for GenAI and Society had an auspicious start with June’s Synthetic Media Summit, which drew leaders from enterprise, entertainment, law and learning, substantially advancing the national conversation.

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